Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Keeping it Simple


The seventh chapter of John Maxwell’s book contains the third practice out of five on connecting, namely, keep it simple!

Let me tell you a story of when I was studying physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign back in the early 1980s.   There was an international physics conference and one of the U of I professors was writing an equation on the board.   He realized he didn’t have time to show how to solve it in the short amount of time he was allotted, so he just wrote down the solution and said, “here’s the solution–it all comes out in the wash.”

One Russian physicist asked a question at the end of the physicist’s presentation through an interpreter:   “what means ‘answer comes out in laundry’?”   Using a slang or colloquial expression in English turned out to be a perilous prospect when it came to interpreting into Russian.    This is why you should always keep it simple–especially if you are speaking for an international audience for whom English may not be their native language.

Let’s start out the chapter by sharing the four criteria that John Maxwell gave to his professional “finder”, Charlie Wetzel, who comes newspapers, magazines, and (now) the Internet to find interesting material for John to illustrate the points of his talks.

1.   Humor–something that will make people laugh

Telling jokes that pertain to a particular topic is a good way to get people’s attention.   However, just remember that humor that depends on word play may not translate well to an international audience.    Funny stories about characters or situations, however, translate more readily across cultural boundaries, but even there you have to be careful.

2.  Heart–something that will captivate people’s emotions

Remember the four communication preferences:   ideas, people, action, and process.   Those with a “people” communication preferences tend to influence what people “feel”, and one way to do this is to tell a story that gets you emotionally involved.

3.  Hope–something that will inspire people

You are going for an attitude here, a way of looking at life with focus on the positive, and, even more importantly, transfer the negative INTO a positive.

4.  Help-something that will assist people in a tangible way

One time I gave a technical presentation on Integral Theory and did it from the perspective of an intellectual trying to convey an idea.   However, several people in the audience who were engineers came up to me and said, “I didn’t get it!   What am I supposed to do with all that information?”   They were the ones who had an action communication preference, and I needed to include them in the picture.

In all cases, you are dealing with perspective and transformation.    Being able to see a situation from a different perspective involves a transformation of your consciousness.    But explaining this in an intellectual way may not work for some people, and it will certainly not act quickly.    Rather than explaining it to your audience, lead them to experience it themselves through a story that has humor, heart, and hope, and then gives them something to take home that will help them take that transformation and apply it to their lives.   When you pick material to illustrate your points, do what Charlie Wetzel does for John Maxwell, and use the four pointers above to give your presentation more power–in a simple way!

The next post discusses the five ways of practicing the art of simplicity when you communicate in order for you to connect to others.

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