One magic question that will help simplify your communication

How many times have you been the newbie in a certain situation where someone throws out terms, acronyms, perhaps even topics that are completely foreign to you?

Did you feel lost? Confused? Like an outsider?

It’s a painful experience.
It’s also an experience that can be easily avoided.

In the last year, one of our children has had some significant behavior challenges. In the process of sorting that out and getting him the help he needs, we were dumped into a whole new world. A world involving the school system, various therapies, specialists, doctors and more.

On top of being an overwhelming, highly emotional process, there were more basic communication barriers than I expected. I was surprised just how often I felt like I was speaking a foreign language.

In one conversation, on a service that was entirely new to me, a kind gal rattled off a whole string of things, and I was lost. I finally stopped her on roughly point number 5 to say, “I need you to explain to me the subtitle, then point 1 before we can get anywhere near point 5.”

It was a great reminder to think through how I communicate to others.

I never thought of looking at simplifying communication this way before!

Keep your communication simple.

We’re all guilty of communicating in overly complicated language and using jargon and terminology that’s not nearly as common as we think it is.

How do you communicate new information to your employees, team, and customers?

Do you make assumptions about their baseline knowledge and what they already know? Are there acronyms that need to be explained? Is there terminology that may not be broadly familiar? What about systems, tools, departments or teams that need to be explained or put in context?

I was recently conducting training sessions on a new software rollout, and realized that I was going way too fast for the audience. It’s a technology that I’ve used for years, and a process that I’m incredibly familiar with. Because the users are familiar with the process, I forgot just how new the technology was.

It took a passing comment about how fast I was flying through the information to remind me that I needed to slow down, explain more thoroughly, and remember what it was like to be new.

Don’t assume that everyone is starting from the same place.

How many times have you gotten through an entire conversation with someone, thinking you were talking about the same thing, only to realize you had an entirely different frame of reference as a starting point and weren’t talking about the same thing at all?

When you are communicating any information, I recommend a magic test that I call “the mom test.”

Simplify your communication: The mom test

The mom test asks one simple question: “Would my mom understand this?”

The intent is “Would anyone not at all familiar with this subject be able to understand my communication?” My mom doesn’t work in the business world, so it’s a perfect question. If your mom does, change up the test to ask the question of anyone else who is unfamiliar with the world in which you are communicating.

If the answer is “No,” simplify your communication. You may want to add definitions, explain acronyms, clarify statements and generally slow down.

It’s entirely too easy to share information at a master’s degree level when the audience is still in metaphorically elementary school. Use the mom test to simplify your communication and share the right level of information with the right audience at the right time.

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