I know you’ve been in this situation before: You thought you were perfectly clear in your expectations with your child or student (or spouse!). At least, it seemed perfectly clear to YOU!
Yet when the time came to follow through, they didn’t. And it made you angry or frustrated, or both. What is the problem? Why didn’t they understand you?
How much can your brain remember?
It turns out that the human brain can only take in about 7 chunks of information at a time. Ten, if you’re good or paying special attention. This is why phone numbers are 7 digits (and why adding the area code to an unfamiliar number makes it harder to remember!). It’s just about all your working memory can handle.
Yet we think that if we explain things even MORE carefully, with even MORE detail, we will make our point MUCH clearer. Right? I know that I have certainly done this. Maybe once or twice…
Anyone who wants to be successful simply must master the art of communicating effectively. And according to the research explained in Mark Waldman’s book, Words can change your brain; 12 conversation strategies to build trust, resolve conflict, and increase intimacy, (affiliate) the more briefly and succinctly we speak, the better the chance that our listener will be able to absorb and understand what we are saying.
Mark Waldman suggests that there two main reasons that we have difficulty speaking briefly. One reason is because we think that the more completely we explain ourselves, the more likely we can get our listener to agree with us (see the situation described above to refute this expectation!). Another reason is because we speak pretty much like we think, that is, in a “stream of consciousness” kind of way. We don’t stop to ask our listener if he or she understands what we are saying, but just keep on throwing out more and more words.
Another brain-based tip for communicating briefly is for you to understand that the human brain only arbitrarily remembers what to listen to, and it may not be what the speaker thinks is most important!
How to communicate much better
What is the solution? Mark Waldman suggests using what he calls the “10-10 rule”. This is a technique in which speakers and listeners agree that they have 10 fingers in which to express themselves; one finger for each word. Here is an example (notice that each description is no more than 10 words long):
- Pair up with a family member, friend, or colleague.
- Hold your hands up in front of you.
- Now make a fist with each hand.
- Raise one finger every time you speak a word.
- If you run out of fingers you must stop speaking.
- Listen to the other person who also counts on fingers.
I encourage you to try this! Even just by yourself, right now. Hold up your two fists and put up one finger for each word you speak. Now, tell me about yourself. Then tell me what you think of this exercise. Then tell me how you think you can USE this exercise to communicate better and more effectively (and efficiently) with the important people in your life. The beauty of this technique is that you will get to the point much faster, resolve problems without conflict, and generate more intimacy in less time.
Try the 10-10 rule
Please check out this video where I discuss this whole concept, and even try to demonstrate it for you! Then I encourage you to TRY this with your family members or students. Or even try it in a meeting at work! Tell everyone that they must think very carefully about what they are going to say. Not only will you find that it focuses your mind before you speak, but it really does help you hear others better too.
Please share in the comments section below what you think makes communication so difficult. Then please tell us what you think of this idea. Even better, then try it out and come back and tell us about your experience!
For more from Mark Robert Waldman, check out his site here. Especially check out his NeuroWisdom 101!
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- What are the two steps you can take to conquer procrastination?
Today’s video lives on YouTube here.