Communication vs. noise

No matter how you communicate — speaking, teaching, blogging, selling, presenting, writing — somewhere on the short list of essential skills is knowing your audience. Basic communication theory, right? Unfortunately, we often don't give this the consideration it deserves. Excited about our ideas and our messages, we naturally build our communications around them. But the difference between great communication and ineffective noise is building our lessons, articles, presentations, talks and other communications around the audience.

Many would describe this empathic element of communication as "putting yourself in their shoes." That's more like narcissism than empathy... it's 90% yourself and 10% shoes. With this approach, since we already love our product or idea, we'll come up with a list of reasons why the audience should love it, too. We bring all of those biases with us. But it's not about the shoes, it's about the person. The trick is to, as much as possible, remove ourselves from the picture and simply be the audience, dropping our own baggage (and hopefully, picking up theirs).

It's nowhere near easy, so here's one suggestion for getting started: tell someone else's story. Shine a light on one of them, someone whose experience demonstrates the power of your idea. This is immediately helpful because it forces us out of the picture, keeps us from becoming the hero. When the story is about them, it's more natural to tailor our messages to their needs and aspirations. Put another way, instead of putting yourself in their shoes, put your audience in someone else's shoes… where they see the value of your ideas from their own unique perspective.

Think of a communicator you admire. I bet they're great at telling someone else's story, probably someone a lot like you.