It is not what you say, but what people hear.

I am currently listening to a great audiobook called “It is not what you say, but what people hear.” Link:

So pretty much the premise of the book is exactly what the title says: It is not what you say, but what people hear. So meaning regardless of how good your message is and how eloquent it is, if it is misunderstood by your audience, it looses all effect.

So his core message is that you must try hard to put yourself into the shoes of your listeners, and make sure that you deliver your message as concisely as possible with them being able to understand yourself. If you are not able to connect and reach out with your audience, the meaning of your message can be misunderstood, and at worst, misinterpreted.

He suggests 11 rules for effective communication:

1. Use small words.
2. Use short sentences.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
4. Consistency matters.
5. Novelty: offer something new.
6. Sound and texture matter.
7. Speak aspirationally.
8. Visualize.
9. Ask a question.
10. Provide context and explain relevance.
11. Visual imagery matters.

Now these are all supposted to apply more to the corporate, political, and advertising world, but I feel that it carries much everyday value as well. Communication in today’s society is one of the most important skills, and many times we can be misunderstood by who we are talking to. Whether it be our friends, our family members, or our loved ones. How many times have you heard someone say something that is misunderstood and later say… “That’s not what I meant!”

One of the philosophies that I believe in is “less is more.” So it is unnecessary to say what you can say in three sentences that can be said in one. By adding frivilous flowery language to our words, our listeners can often lose sight of what we are trying to say, whereas SAT words can confuse them as well.

Now I’m not saying never use advanced words or thoughts when speaking to your listeners, but always know the context you are in. If you are talking to your professor or fellow college friends it will probably be okay, but if you are talking to a random person on the street or an aquaintance don’t assume they know what you are talking about.

Which brings me to five more points said by the author:

1. Never assume knowledge or awareness.
2. Get the order right.
3. Gender can obstruct understanding.
4. It’s about the children.
5. How you define determines how you are received.

Trying to condense this entire book into a single blog post is near impossible, but I will tell you what I took out of it:

To be an effective speaker, you must be even more effective as a listener. If you want to get your intended message across to whoever you are talking to, you must really see things from their side of the fence. And to really put yourself into the shoes of your listener, you must know what they are thinking and how they are feeling.

So be a fervent listener and don’t be afraid to ask questions. By asking questions, we let our listeners know that we actually care about their concerns  which puts both parties on a more even playing field.

And never assume that the other person know what you are talking about or trying to convey. You might have thought about a certain idea for hours upon end or studied a certain concept, but not everybody will be as well-knowledged about it as yourself.

For example, I sometimes forget that not everybody is as technical about photography as myself. So I sometimes find myself using extremely technical terms such as “aperture” when another word such as “lens opening” can work much better.

So really try to pay attention to what you say to other people and know the strength and power of your words. The power of words should never be underestimated as the power of listening shouldn’t be underestimated as well.

So another assignment for you guys. Speak less, and listen more. Ask questions and really figure out what the other person feels.