3 Ways to Effectively Communicate Your Ideas

Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash

“Not a lot of people wake up each day and say: it’s a great day for decarbonisation.”

Says John Marshall, who is leading a highly successful campaign to spread awareness about the risks of climate change.

Words can become obstacles to understanding, let alone caring. A failure to communicate, according to Marshall, is why we struggle to take proper action against pressing issues such as climate change, poverty, pandemics.

What’s the fix?

Think about people first. Talking about an issue you care about is one thing. Making people care is something else.

Here are three simple things that Marshall recommends to have an effective, clear, actionable, and people-first approach to communicating your ideas.

#1 — Understanding

Stay away from confusing terms. Confusion is the enemy of understanding. Use plain, obvious, and universal language.

Terms like “carbon emissions” or “net zero” are good for science books, but they don’t mean much to the average person.

Here’s a simple test to test the clarity of your language. What pops in your head when you hear:

Climate changeGlobal warming

Probably not much.

Instead, use vivid language that everyone gets: words, sentences, and expressions that invoke a clear image in people’s minds.

Now consider these terms:

Pollution blanketExtreme weatherOzone-layer hole

Images start popping up immediately when you read these expressions. It’s easy to imagine a hole in a layer or a blanket covering the sky.

Use language that is visual, vivid, and evocative so people can get it. Go beyond arcane policy language into language that people intuitively get.

That’s the first step: understanding.

#2 — Relatedness

Make the issue matters to people’s personal lives, not globally.

All your awakenings are about your life, your concerns, your problems, not somebody else’s. So don’t expect people to be different from you.

Marshall and his team presented two messages to people in Florida:

Message 1: Let's get to zero emissions to stop climate change.Message 2: Stop my flooding!

The latter message was four times more effective in getting their attention. Why? Because local flooding is much more relevant to Floridians than global warming.

The message needs to have a deeper and more personal connection.

When you speak to people about issues that concern their wellbeing and community, they will care far more deeply than they do from staring at charts and statistics.

Your message should connect to a person’s identity:

  • My life, not future lives.
  • Not the world, my community.
  • Not environmentalism, my values.

#3 —Familiarity

The effectiveness of your message grows in double-digit when it comes from a local — someone with the same accent, similar background, familiar way of life.

To present the climate change issue in the most captivating way, a creative company in Florida made an ad using a notorious meme: aka Florida Man.

The host was a local celebrity who brought an alligator to a liquor store, making headlines sensation. His message was crystal clear to the community:

“1.3 million homes in Florida alone will be at risk of flooding because of rising sea levels. Save Florida Man.” — Excerpt from the ad.

The ad was a hit. What’s more, the message resonated wildly with conservative men.

Bring your message home, make it resonate with the locals, use familiar language they’re comfortable with.

Final Thoughts

“Instead of explaining the issue to people, bring people to the issue.” — John Marshall

Marshall’s three-step system — understanding, relatedness, familiarity— make your message clear, vivid, simple, universal, and devoid of jargon.

When people listen to you, they should say, “I get it, this matters to me.” To make issues you care about more relatable, give people a reason to care.

Physicist • Soft Dev • ☕ Junkie • I bring you the latest in science, tech, health, economics & personal growth. To read all: https://youneshenni.substack.com/

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Younes Henni, PhD

Younes Henni, PhD

Physicist • Soft Dev • ☕ Junkie • I bring you the latest in science, tech, health, economics & personal growth. To read all: https://youneshenni.substack.com/

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