Driving over the Westgate bridge last Friday evening, I noticed a huge billboard off to one side; it said something like ‘Raise your right foot – then in much smaller print underneath it said ‘take off five’ – the billboard was part of the Vicroads campaign to get people to slow down. Here’s my question: Why make it cryptic? Why, when I am in my car, travelling in traffic, do they want me to figure out their clever little ad campaign slogan? Why not just print, in huge 12 foot high letters – SLOW DOWN! Now that’s the sort of communication I want!

I like non-cryptic communication – especially if I want immediate results. When we are coaching, and we need people to follow instructions and achieve set outcomes quickly, we need to make the communication as clear and concise as possible.

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be too clever. It is worth remembering that under certain conditions and depending on who we are talking to, that sometimes, ‘clever’ equals ‘cryptic’. If we want to effectively communicate, we do not want to be cryptic; instead we want to be obviously obvious.

Being cryptic in communication is akin to testing the mental agility of the person with whom we are trying to communicate. Sometimes you want to run tests – sure, but when you want to get an immediate response, you want to make things as easy as possible. When things are moving at pace, and we want to get a message across under those conditions (sometimes training environments are like this), then it’s time for a good dose of straight talk.

So if your friend is driving your car down a stony road and you don’t want a pebble to fly up and break the window; don’t say ‘Please, avoid windscreen damage’ – just say ‘SLOW DOWN’.
Remember: the meaning of the communication is the RESPONSE you get.


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