How to focus your communication

Some people think that the bigger the words they use, the more focused their communication will be. The reasoning is usually fuzzy, but goes something like this: Bigger words often have more precise meanings. So using more big words must mean that you are expressing a more precise meaning (a subset of narrowly defined words).

This may be true of the dictionary meaning of your words. It's not true of how most people will process them.

You need two qualities to help people focus on your words. The first is that you have a key message you can state simply and directly. This becomes the touchstone for everything else you write. It all points back to this clear key message.

The second quality you need is sensory coding. People focus on what engages their senses. If your words point them to sights and sounds and feelings, their attention will wrap around your words. Your readers or listeners will be so busy filling in the sensory information that your words suggest, they will let go of all other distractions. This is focus.

Look at something you have written or your notes for a recent presentation. Ask yourself: did I state my key message in clear, direct language? Did I use words that referenced the senses so that my readers would make a mental movie of my words?  Where could I add sensory information to make it easier for my readers to focus?

For instance, let me ask you this: is your message on target? Have you painted a picture with bold strokes and colours or are you working in watercolours, detailed and delicate?


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