Communicating in depth
How authentic is your approach to communication?
It can be a difficult question to ask ourselves. In the age of Twitter and corporate spin, a lot of the communication around us can seem shallow and devoid of meaning. A lot of it is.
It’s easy to slip into the habit of communicating in bulk rather than in depth, running around expressing frequent messages rather than deep, well-considered ones. But think about how you respond to that clutter of communications noise. Do you take more in because there’s more out there? Of course not. What works is communication that shows quality and depth.
So how can you cut through the noise? How do you achieve that sort of communication?
There is a balance to be struck here. You don’t want to become so afraid of over-reaching or creating noise that you recede into quiet passivity, your message all but forgotten. Equally, you don’t want to become ‘that guy’, the aggressive communicator who’s so busy putting his message out that he never stops to listen to others.
The balancing place in the middle, the spot where successful communication lies, is assertiveness – not letting your views be drowned out but not drowning others out either.
Part of this balance is in how much you communicate and how hard you think about it. Pushing too far into high quality can mean spending hours over every single sentence, hardly ever getting your message out. In an ideal world every message would be top quality, but this is not an ideal world. Think about where the balance lies for you between quality and quantity, and how far you can move towards quality without your beautifully crafted message going unheard.
A lack of substance will always show. No amount of jargon or empty ad copy will hide the hollowness of your message. So make sure that you have something real to say, something that is of value to your audience, something they will want to hear rather than just something you want them to know.
Anyone can share a set of facts or data. What makes substantial communication is the ability to look in depth at the facts and draw new conclusions. Show people the meaning behind the facts. Share wisdom, not just data.
A week from now no-one will remember the figures that you provided to the monthly sales meeting. But if you can demonstrate what those figures mean, how they create an opportunity for action, then your colleagues will remember it for months to come.
One of the most powerful ways to communicate that meaning is through stories. Stories let us shape people’s feelings, not just their thoughts. The art of storytelling has evolved down the centuries from tales around the campfire to the latest primetime adverts. At every stage in that evolution it has been about stirring our emotions.
Our minds are built not just to take in stories but also to turn events into them. You don’t remember the cold facts of your grandmother’s 80th birthday party, you remember the hilarious chain of events that led to her chasing a guinea pig around the living room. Stories give us structure and emotion in which to ground messages, and so they make them memorable.
Give your communications that structure, that connecting together of events, that stirring of emotions, and the message will stick.
Deep and memorable
If you make your message more substantial then it immediately has depth. Building a story around it provides emotional depth and make it memorable. Balancing quality and quantity of message, passivity and assertiveness, makes people receptive to that depth. Apply these lessons together and see your impact grow.