During the past few months I have been repeatedly challenge to tell a simple story. It took me awhile but I finally got the message and took on the challenge. I thought I had it nailed! The story was direct, logical, clear, lots of pictures and white space on the pages, and simple. Everything seemed to be in order. As I reflect on the day now passed I realized that even with the best of preparation things are not always as simple as they might appear to be. Things haven’t changed much with time, even when “Jesus told this simple story [shepherd leading his flock], but they had no idea what he was talking about.” (John 10.6) Messages are anything but simple.
Politicians have struggled with this for years. Coming to think about it, so have sport coaches, construction supervisors, and parents. Anyone trying to share an idea with an audience that has a different agenda has and does struggle with the challenge. Even when one applies the normal techniques, newspapers have focused on this as part of their guiding principles, of keeping things in kid’s English with short sentence lengths, minimal syllables, crisp and direct communication, there are no guarantees. It is as if the deck is stacked against you!
Yet some break through. Certain coaches in their prime, politicians at the height of their power, and leader’s with a message anchored in truth have risen to the challenge. There is more to the communication process then delivering the details. The process involves several key steps I often push to the back of my mind. They include the following.
Listen to your audience.
Make sure you know where and why they are holding onto the view they have.
Confront them directly at the point of conflict.
Make sure the choice is clear.
Act on the results.
You will not always get perfect results. You will have done everything possible to live the talk, engage with people where they are, and compassionately present choices.
After all, life is about choice. Today we get to make them.
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