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How to make your communication more human

November 16, 2018

Communication that connects with someone's emotions will succeed more often than communication that doesn't. The problem is that "connecting with someone's emotions" is a very fuzzy concept and difficult to define. 

 

Sure, some of it comes down to natural talent. Some people are great at connecting with people, and some people come off like awkward robots trying to logic you into doing something. 

 But, that's only part of the story. I really believe that the "human touch" can be learned. Let's look at what goes into it: 

 

 

1) Pretend your audience is right there next to you

 

When you're creating something, whether it's an email or an ad or a graphic, it's easy to think of your audience as an abstract concept. Sure, people will see this thing, but it doesn't feel real. As a result, your work comes off as detached and distant -- and often fails to move people. 

 

Try pretending that they're right there with you in the room. Some of the best public speakers make you feel like they're talking just to you, like they're one of your friends. That feeling of intimacy starts with the speaker imagining a single person, perhaps even a friend, hearing their words. 

 

Same thing applies here. Don't look at the audience as "a thing." Think of your audience as one specific person (or a specific group of people). Imagine what would make that person laugh or pay attention and what would make them bored or annoyed or offended. 

 

Keeping that stuff in mind already puts you halfway towards human. 

 

 

2) Read it out loud

 

I used to ignore this advice. Read it out loud? That sounds like some teacher-y advice that doesn't actually mean anything. 

 

I was wrong. When your writing is good, people can almost hear your voice in their head. Good writing is alive. 

 

If your writing sounds mechanical and clunky when read aloud, that means it's also harder to read silently. The reader doesn't hear your voice in their head. They have to work to get through it. 

 

You'll hear your mistakes pretty clearly when you read it out loud. On paper (or on screen), those problems are much harder to spot. 

 

It's no surprise that people will repeat, "Just do it," but you don't hear people running around telling their friends, "Our chief objective is to coordinate the arrival of individuals into situations in which they can thrive and cooperate for the advancement of learning."

 

One of them reads out loud quite well. One looks fancy on paper but sounds like you have rocks in your mouth. 

 You tell 'em, Elaine. 

 

 

3) Avoid jargon as much as possible


Does your industry have lots of jargon?

 

Well, chances are, no one is impressed by it. I get that if you're communicating with people within your industry, you may need to use a certain amount of jargon to sound like you know your stuff, but the general public doesn't like all your confusing acronyms. You either sound like you're trying too hard, or you're confusing people and making them feel dumb. 

 

Also, realize that jargon can sneak up on you. I catch myself using the word "conversions" a lot when I talk about marketing. A conversion is just a goal achievement, like a lead or a sale. So, just say lead or sale. Everyone knows what a lead or a sale is, and saying "conversion" is actually less precise. I'm so used to that term, though, that I will say it without realizing it. 

 

There are examples of jargon that are a million times worse (CTR, CPA, and many other acronyms). The more accessible you can make a topic, the better chance you have of being understood. And that's the point of communicating -- to be understood, not just to impress people with your vocabulary. 

 

 

4) Formal, casual, friendly: understand the differences

 

Now, the main takeaway so far might feel like, "Be super casual." That's partly right, so I want to take a moment to make some distinctions. 

 

Casual: assumes an existing relationship with the audience. If you're at a job interview, for example, you could run into issues if you get too casual, too familiar. It can come off as disrespectful or off-putting. Ever get turned off by a salesman that acted like your buddy the second you met him? Same concept. Too casual, assumed too much, pushed the audience away. There's a time and place for it, and sometimes a little bit is plenty. Judge the situation and watch people's reactions.

 

Friendly: This is pretty much always good. You're not necessarily being casual or assuming a relationship, just bright. It's hard to mess this up. 

 

Formal: This doesn't necessarily mean boring. It's simply giving a person or situation a certain amount of respect and ceremony. In our job interview situation, keeping certain formalities in place is good. It shows respect. Now, on the flip side, if you were to turn to your friend and formally request something, it would be confusing, and it would feel disrespectful because it implies that you don't feel comfortable enough with them to be casual. It works both ways. 

 

So, the main idea here is to consider your audience and the circumstances and let that help inform your tone. 

 

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