You and I fight for many things. Life. Love. Liberty. Happiness. Leftover pizza. At the heart of it all, is communication. And not just any communication – effective communication. Do you understand the power of words? Do you fully grasp the importance of communicating your thoughts effectively? Take a walk with me for just a few minutes and learn how you can become a master of communicating effectively.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
So, where’s the picture? That’s exactly my point. How can you possibly express the right words, through a picture, to someone you care about, if you don’t even know what words you would have chosen to use without a picture? See, pictures are not to replace effective communication. Pictures supplement effective communication and increase the magnitude of your message.
Before you select an image, whether it be in a slideshow presentation, on a website, an emoji text message, or chosen art illustrations for a children’s picture book, you must know what words you would use in it’s place.
Why hang a picture of a sunset on your wall? Maybe you want to feel relaxed when you see it. Maybe you had a wonderful vacation and saw a sunset there. Maybe you just like the Sun and can’t get enough of it. Regardless, consider hanging up a group of words, or a phrase, or a sentence, or even a paragraph, or maybe even 1,000 words instead of the picture. What words would you choose?
Here’s what I would write on the wall before I hung up a picture of the Sun.
“God, your works are beyond what I can fathom. Your light shines brilliantly. The world is a beautiful place even when there is difficulty and hardship. Nature is beautiful and to be appreciated. Each day, the Sun rises without fail. I can rely on God’s consistency. I love the beach. The wind. The noise of crashing waves rolling on and on.”
See what I did there? Knowing the words I want to communicate, I can now select the perfect picture to communicate those words effectively. Would I choose a black and white sunset? Of course not! I would pick one that shows off the Sun’s brilliance, the sand’s coarseness, the wave’s rolling over one another, etc. Next time you select an image or illustration, consider first what words you would put in it’s place.
Would you say things differently if you were on the receiving end instead of the giving end? Of course you would. When you and I speak to people, we must filter it through a certain level of sensitivity, not out of fear of repercussion, but out of priority on communicating effectively. HelpGuide.org wrote an excellent article on effective communication.
One of the most important things you can do when expressing your thoughts is to speak persuasively. Speaking persuasively can be summed up by leading people to work with you rather than work against you. Persuasion can be a very complex focus of study but simply consider how the other person will receive your message. If you communicate something offensive, distracting, or confusing, you’re taking the conversation away from a place of constructive discussion to somewhere else.
Here’s an example of persuasion.
I intended to ask my now wife to marry me in a church parking lot where we spent many Sunday afternoons chatting. But it couldn’t just be in any old parking space. I planned to drop on one knee in the exact same spot her and I would always park and stand chatting before we left. Can you imagine my shock when I showed up to the parking lot a little early, anticipated her showing up very soon, only to find someone else parked in my spot?!
The entire parking lot was empty except for that one spot that meant so much. At that moment, I was faced with a decision how to persuade the individual to move their vehicle (preferably far, far away). I could say, “Hey, dude, you’re in my spot, pick another one!” Do you think that would have persuaded him? Would that have gone over well? Would that have communicated my message effectively? What was my message anyways?
My message internally wass “I want to re-create a beautiful moment with my future wife and for that to happen I need to have this space for a brief period of time.” But what the gentleman would probably here is “Blah blah, I own this spot, blah blah, fight me, blah blah.”
Instead, I took a more strategic route. I parked near the man, who thankfully was still in his vehicle. I addressed him as sir and told him I was about to ask for my girlfriend’s hand in marriage. I told him how special that specific spot was and how we met each other and spent so many afternoons getting to know each other right there. Then, I delivered my request. Smooth and concise. I even afforded him an alternative solution. I asked if he could please move, if only for a brief moment until I was finished, and he didn’t even have to leave the parking lot but could go park somewhere near by.
Do you think he was persuaded? You bet. He got the message because it was communicated effectively. I switched places with him, knowing that asking him to move would be an inconvenience. I talked to him the way I would have wanted him to talk to me. With respect, sincerity, and clarity. That is how we speak to our audience, the buyer of our content, and the listener of our story.
Determine the Outcome in Advance
In order to communicate effectively, you must know what the desired goal is. Let’s take writing children’s picture books as an example. If our intent is to make a child laugh and ask the reader to read the book again, how might we accomplish this?
We could add humor but not just any humor, kid humor. Kids and adults have very different humor triggers. This is part of knowing your target audience. We could keep word count short, being very selective and concise with our message. We can try not to be preachy and instead trust the child and reader to intuitively understand and pick up on any subtle message (although, you don’t always need one!).
Do you see how knowing the end result helps us generate the content up front? Often, I see authors write a story or manuscript that heads in an unknown direction. I’ve done this myself! But, knowing where we want to go, is crucial in keeping our word choice effective. I love this Story Arc Creation article by Now Novel because it further details how to break up each point of a story arc and how to use it effectively.
Do you feel more prepared to communicate effectively? Will you commit to thinking things through a bit more in depth before you publish that piece of content or say those words? You wield tremendous power in your message. Don’t let the power dissipate due to ineffective communication.
What aspect do you find the most difficult when trying to communicate? Leave a comment below! I would love to help you develop your skills of expressing yourself for the desired goal.