Have you ever been confused when someone is talking? Have you thought, their lips are moving, but I don’t understand anything they’re saying!
Like you, I’ve had my fair share of confusing interactions with people—from afar and up close. It can be draining. You’re not sure if it’s YOU (not smart enough to understand what they’re saying), or if they’re just in another world.
When you “get it”
On the other hand, you’ve had moments when “you get it.” Maybe you can remember a teacher who could always able to explain things in a simple way that helped you truly understand.
These geniuses make themselves accessible. They speak your language (or they take the time to figure out how). And it’s almost a surprise to you how CLEAR everything is. They get your blood pumping; your mind engaged. Things click. (I love these moments.)
Everyone wants to be understood
Zig Ziglar said many times in his books and seminars that “Everyone wants to be RIGHT, and everyone wants to be UNDERSTOOD.” I think he’s right.
I want to be understood! Don’t you? When someone doesn’t understand me, that’s frustrating! I believe you can become easier to understand—which is a skill that will always be in demand. Here’s how:
Step 1: Immersion.
When I talk to successful experts, they all have something in common: immersion. They immerse themselves in “good research.” They soak themselves in their subject matter and know it from every angle. They know much more than they need to know, and have mastered the skill of knowing what to leave out.
I’m hesitant to use the word “research” because I’m not sure everyone knows how to conduct good research. I don’t just mean on the internet. I mean in real life. Primary sources. Well-researched books, going on-location, spending time to collect real data. Immersion is the first step to becoming easier to understand. You must know what you’re talking about—and how others are talking about it.
Step 2: Attunement.
Dictionary.com defines attunement as being or bringing into harmony; a feeling of being “at one” with another being. When you attune your ears (and eyes) to others, you get out of your own world and into theirs.
For writing, learn to attune yourself to the reader. For speaking, attune yourself to a person listening and watching in the room. For social media, attune yourself to the platform and how people really use it. Learn the behaviors of people you’re speaking with. (Chances are your favorite teacher knew how to adjust their style to your behavior because they were attuned to your age or tendencies.) Learn about personalities and how people are wired. This will help you understand others, which will give you the eyes to see how they will receive your information.
Step 3: Break things down into small pieces.
You will find that when people are clear, it’s because they’re specific. To get specific, your scope must be defined. You choose to talk about ONE thing and know how to distinguish it from something else that is close, but not exactly what you’re talking about. Tackle one thing at a time and only communicate what is needed. (Leave the rest out!)
Step 4: Tell short, succinct stories.
Stories are a powerful way to convey information, but when they’re too long, people start snoring, deleting, scrolling, or daydreaming. To be easy-to-understand, a short story with a clear point can enlighten others. Don’t worry if you have to leave out a lot of the details. The power of a story isn’t in its length, but its ability to communicate deeply with another person. Use this strategically.
Step 5: Don’t fake it.
If you don’t know what you’re talking about—don’t talk about it. It’s OK to say, I need to look into that or that’s a great question, but I’m not the best person to answer that. If you’re trying to come across like you know everything, guess what, you don’t! People can tell when someone is faking it. So relieve yourself of the pressure of having to “be professional” and do what a real pro would do… take the time to immerse yourself before you speak.
Leaving a “communication reputation”
Do you want to have a reputation for being confusing... or easy-to-understand? Do you want want to cause frustration for others, or be a helpful resource?
Aim to leave a reputation of being easy-to-understand.
What strategies do you use to be easy-to-understand?