I’ve been working for well over 20 years, and sometimes I wish I could go back to my younger self and share some hard-won wisdom about how to communicate effectively. How convenient it would be to whisper in my young ear the knowledge that would save a lot of mistakes, angst and frustration. The only problem is, I wouldn’t have any of my knowledge without regularly, and sometimes spectacularly, failing in the first place. I had to mess up and age in order to fully grasp the lessons in the first place.
While I can’t travel in a time machine to share what I wish I’d known about communicating with my younger self, I can share them with you. Here are just four of the lessons I have learned the hard way. (There are far more than four, but this is a blog post, not a novel.)
1. What I wish I had known about making a case: It’s not about me; it’s about them. Every time I find a message under-performing, a product faltering or a partnership flailing, it’s inevitably because the work being done does not resonate with the audience’s priorities, values and perspective. I have to remember to channel my energy into understanding my audience above myself and speaking to their concerns rather than my own.
2. What I wish I’d known about persuasion: Feeling first, facts later. There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind. We have to move people emotionally before they will take in information — or act. Numbers have their place, but nothing beats a good story that makes them come alive. I have to speak to the soul so the facts have a fighting chance.
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