It’s no secret that, to communicate effectively, understanding your audience is critically important. Many communication experts routinely point out that knowing your audience can help select the most valuable content and structure for that audience. Though true, there’s a far more important reason to dedicate precious time learning more about your audience: word choice.
The break down
Word choice is crucial in any type of communication. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. More often, when one person approaches another to communicate, their focus is on the message that they intend to send, but not the language chosen to encode that message. The message itself is the intended meaning for your audience or counterpart (depending on the situation) to take away from the exchange. Word choice, or phraseology, is the language a person chooses to convey their message.
Imagine your message as an object that you must deliver to another person a few yards away. Depending on the significance and severity of that message, the object can range from a rock to a stuffed animal. Your word choice is the mode of delivery. You can throw the object at them, toss it to them, or walk over and hand it to them. The choice is yours; take a moment to consider your options.
The first step
The path to becoming an effective communicator involves carefully matching language with the audience. For best results, choose words that align with your audience’s level of understanding and use language that’s familiar and accessible to the audience. Doing so sends a subconscious signal to the audience that you, the speaker, understand and value them. When audiences receive this signal, they respond with attention, trust, and positivity.
However, accurately determining your audience’s level of understanding is another task in itself which we’ll further explore next week. For now, let us focus on the big picture…
The next problem…
The first mistake that many professionals make is not giving any thought to their word choice in anticipation of their delivery. However, a close second, is the tendency to use complex, uncommon words in their communication. Research has found this inclination to be the result of the speaker’s desire to appear intelligent, knowledgeable, and well spoken. Many speakers believe that the vocabulary they demonstrate through their communication is a reflection of their abilities. Unfortunately, this belief is inaccurate and counter-productive.
More on optimal word choice next week…
For now, before you set off guns blazing, take a moment to determine which words your audience will most easily understand.
We wish you success in your future endeavors!