Trying to figure out the best way to talk to your boss, pitch a proposal, give a presentation, or do anything else that involves you communicating at work? Get a free master class from the great communicators around us. Look around your office and notice those who always seem to get their way, say the right thing, and are well respected.
You can also find “communication masters” who you don’t know personally. They could be people you read or hear about. One example I was struck by recently is Neil deGrasse Tyson, famed astrophysicist and science communicator. You can see the “master” in action in a conversation he had with Katy Perry.
Read on for details and and a free download that will help you prepare to be a master of communication at work.
Neil deGrasse Tyson gets at the heart of what it means to effectively communicate your message in an interview with Quartz. He reminds us that the key to communicating with your audience is to understand them and frame your information in a way that will be meaningful to them. In an explanation that isn’t surprising for a scientist, he says that he shapes, “the content in a way that can best be received by the receptors of that audience.” This can’t just be a surface understanding. To really connect with the audience you need to understand what has shaped their worldview. He says:
“… if you want to get all the way there, that means [understanding] what are the receptors in a 12-year-old versus a 20-year-old versus a 50- or 80-year old. If the person grew up in a city versus the suburbs or in the countryside, if they’re foreign, if they grew up wealthy, struggling—all of this will feed the demographics of your audience.”
We’ve all heard it before. Know your audience! But, how does that work in everyday conversations? How can you do this when you are talking with your boss, coworker, or clients?
Just watch Tyson’s conversation with Katy Perry in her weekend long, reality-showesque live stream to kick off her album Witness. Watch as Tyson connects with Perry and discusses science with her.
He masterfully takes the following steps…
Here is a man who has done his homework. He asks about the name of her past album Prism and talks about its scientific meaning. He relates her one-page bio to philosophy on the fly. He has listened to Perry’s songs and asks about the song E.T. to understand Perry’s interest in space and aliens. He also knows that she has tickets for a flight on Virgin Galactic and asks about her desire to go into space.
You won’t get very far in a discussion if you don’t have a common language. But, this is more than just being sure you are both are speaking English (or Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, etc). It’s important to frame discussion points in a way that makes sense with your audience. Watch how Tyson answers Perry’s question about if life is a simulation by talking about video games. First, he makes sure that it has meaning to her. He actually asks her if she plays video games. After confirming it, he asks her for an example of a game. This helps her to be invested in the answer and also paints a relatable picture.
Being judged is exhausting, and doing so will turn your audience from sweet to sour immediately. To really listen and deliver information effectively, you absolutely cannot judge. Responding with sarcasm, arrogance, or anything other than an open mind does not serve you or the other person well. Notice how Tyson just responds factually to Perry’s questions, like what is a solar eclipse. Of course, it helps when both people in the discussion have an open mind, and Perry is certainly approaching the conversation with curiosity and no judgement!
You may not realize it, but every time you communicate with someone at work, you are telling a story and also passing along a message — mostly about your personal brand. Think of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s words about educators really needing to understand the worldview of the audience. As you tune into the perspective of the person or people you are talking to, you will develop your ability to sense their perspective. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But, you need to be aware of it to help craft your message in a way that makes sense to them.
Examples of great communication are all around. Keep your eyes and ears open and take note when someone powerfully connects with an audience and gets a point across. If Neil deGrasse Tyson can use this approach for encouraging discussions about science with non-scientists, you can use it to make a compelling point to your boss.