Are You Making the Simple Complex?

Almost every day, I speak with people who work with ideas. They are responsible for communicating those ideas to clients, customers or coworkers. Maybe it’s the plan for a new department. Maybe it’s how a software product can fix a decade-old problem in a local government. No matter what it is, they are responsible for clearly communicating something so that people can act appropriately on that information.

Don’t miss this: The point of communication is to tell others what they should care about, why they should care about it, and what they should do as a result. Anything less is a waste of your audience’s time. I don’t care if this is written or spoken word that we’re talking about – the point is the same.

The problem arises when we confuse a simple message with one that is dumbed-down. I can’t tell you how many times in my day I hear the phrase, “I have a sophisticated audience. I don’t want to dumb it down.”

When did ensuring your audience understood what you were saying become “dumbing it down”?

Can I let you in on a little secret? The person who says this to me is not concerned about his audience. He’s concerned about his pride and worried the audience will assume he is dumb.

Most people could give a rat’s butt about their audience – except as it pertains to how their audience perceives them.

They believe that by saying a department is “focused on building individual and organizational capabilities for improved project performance” that they will sound sophisticated. Is saying, “We improve performance on projects through training,” really dumbed-down because people can understand it?

Sure, you may sound smart. But tell me who is more effective: the person who sounds smart at the expense of comprehension, or the person who is clearly understood by the audience.

The intelligence of a communicator is not demonstrated by the number of syllables in the words they use but by the number of people motivated to change as a result of what they said.

Stop making the simple complex for the sake of your ego.