How to explain ideas

Published on Aug 14, 2019

Communication is something we constantly do, but just because we do it frequently doesn't mean we get good at it with practice. Many of us are bad at communication, and we simply repeat the same mistakes and bad habits for years. This makes it harder to get good at communication because we have so much experience with bad communication!

I'd like to go off on two separate tangents (this may not be a good communication practice, but as long as you stay with me, then it works)

1- Communication is similar to work experience. I'm reminded of the saying: "Do you have 20 years of experience, or 1 year repeated 20 times"? Frequency and duration of experience/practice doesn't correlate with mastery

2- I know someone who lies ALL the time, and their lies are very easy to unravel. I would have imagined they'd be better at it with all their years of practice, but this reinforces the fact that practice doesn't always lead to perfection

When it comes to being good at explaining* things, it's essential that:

  • You are aware of what your audience already knows: how little they know AND how much they know (talking down at people can be just as annoying as talking over their heads)
  • You keep them engaged with what you are explaining by ensuring it's of value to them

If your audience isn't already interested in the topic you wish to explain, then you should connect it to something that matters to them.

Or change the subject.

Or change the audience.


* Explanation is one form of communication and not the only form. Other forms include persuasive communication, descriptive communication, etc.