Scan Magazine | Issue 77 | June 2015

Page 79

5_ScanMag_77_June_2015_Text_Q9_Scan Magazine 1 05/06/2015 16:49 Page 79

Scan Magazine | Business | Key Note

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Keep it simple, Einstein! By Paul Blackhurst, client director at Mannaz

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” said Mark Twain. He was a well-known wit of course, but as always his humour had a point. Communicating your message in a clear, succinct way is quite a challenge. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address said a huge amount in only 272 words and we all know the saying that less is more. However, if you watch people communicate, they tend to operate on the principle that more is better. This is especially true where the message is an important or difficult one where our discomfort or lack of confidence can lead to a tsunami of words. In an international context, this is where your language abilities can actually work against you. If you have a hundred ways to say something, there is a temptation to use all one hundred ways to demonstrate your linguistic abilities. The risk then, is that the core message becomes lost or diluted. Starting with the end in mind is usually good advice. Think about what you want people to know, feel and do as a result of your communication. Then figure out how best to achieve that goal. Then simplify your message. Unless the purpose of your communication is to demonstrate just how much you know, strip out all of the non-essential words and phrases. Take out the jargon and the technical words, unless you are sure that

the audience will understand them. Einstein said, "if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough”, so demonstrate your understanding by simplifying. Rehearse your message with people who do not know the content. Young people can be good sounding boards. In the movie Duck Soup, Groucho Marx says, “why, a four-yearold child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head nor tail out of it." For challenging conversations, we often help people to rehearse the opening 60 seconds of the interaction, which is where the tone is set for the rest of the conversation. The structure is:

I will find it hard to collaborate with you in future. I am at fault for not telling you earlier how important punctuality is to me. I really want us to find a solution to this. How do you see things?” Those 77 words can make a huge impact. I have so much more to say, but unfortunately my 500 words just ran out.

1. Name the issue 2. Select a specific example that illustrates the behaviour 3. Describe your emotions about the issue 4. Clarify what is at stake 5. Identify your contribution to the problem 6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue 7. Invite a response For example: “I want to talk to you about timekeeping. This week, you have arrived late to the office on two occasions. I feel disappointed that you appear uncommitted to our project. If we cannot resolve this issue,

Paul Blackhurst, client director at Mannaz

Issue 77 | June 2015 | 79