Of all the mistakes people make when they communicate to important audiences, the biggest is to assume that your audience is just like you. The truth is quite different: Unless you're sending a message to your identical twin sister, the recipients of your message are likely to have a different background, education, outlook and needs than you.

As a result, you need to focus on your audience, not operate as if people you're communicating with are an extension of you.

Here are 7 reasons you should step out of your head and ignore your own preferences when you communicate:

  1. You know a lot about the topic; your audience does not. This problem, known as "The Curse of Knowledge" occurs when, in predicting others' perspectives, individuals are unable to ignore their own knowledge and see that others know very little. The cure: Explain everything.
  2. You revel in complexity. But most recipients want simplicity and speed.
  3. You know the jargon/lingo. However, audience members may not speak your language. An example of this is when Human Resources talks about "compensation." Most employees refer to the money they get for doing their job as "pay."
  4. You're a big fan of your topic. But you need to take your audience back to the beginning (see #1) and convince people your idea is valid. As Margaret Thatcher, Britain's former prime minister, said: "First you win the argument, then you win the vote."
  5. You're emotionally invested. Your audience is, at best, neutral. (At worst, people are standing there with their arms crossed.) So you need to use every persuasive tool available--including but not limited to factual evidence--to make your case.
  6. You've spent a lot of time on this and are willing to spend a whole lot more. Your audience members will only give you mere seconds to convince them that they should even pay attention, much less invest a few minutes in learning about it.
  7. You're convinced that your idea will benefit everyone it touches. But your audience only really cares about what's in it for them.

By now, you get the point. To get your message across, make communication not about you, but geared to your audience's needs and preferences.

Published on: Nov 23, 2016