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Why is it that — as hard as you try — you can’t seem to get your message across? Here’s why. And here’s what to do about it.

get your message across

They can’t understand you.

So the first thing you’ll want to do, in order to get your message across, is to say something that your audience can understand. In that light, watch this hilarious short clip of Steve Martin trying to say “I would like to buy a hamburger,” from the movie “The Pink Panther.”

Is this you?

Or is it just me? Because I swear that sometimes when I’m talking with someone, they look at me like I’m speaking nonsense, like Steve Martin, above. I mean, he’s really trying. But failing miserably. And I guess I’m just saying I can feel his pain, which is why it’s so funny. But seriously — if you want to break through and make a connection with another human, here’s the ticket. And Nelson Mandela put it simply and eloquently when he said simply, “Speak their language.” And you might object, “But I am speaking their language. After all, we’re both speaking English.” And you’re right. But you’re also missing something, aren’t you? Because you’ve felt the disconnect. So here it is, plain and simple, in the words of Nelson Mandela.

Here’s how to get through:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

So speak their language to get your message across.

And that sounds like a good idea, right? But how do you actually do that in practice? Because no matter who you’re talking with, they have a language. And it’s a language more nuanced than simply English or French. In fact, there are many more languages that you might be thinking of. For example, you might have heard of the concept of “love languages.” And, yes. That is one lens. But there are many more. So here’s the concept: speak their language.

But how do I know which language to use?

Here’s how. Ready? And this may blow your mind, it’s so simple. Because the way to know which language to use is to listen to them. That’s right — listen to the person you want to connect with. Notice what words they use, and how they put their words together. And this is essential — listen for what is important to them

They’ll tell you — if you listen.

But wait — I thought we were talking about getting my message across. And yes. You’re right. We are. And this is what works to get your message across, which is counter-intuitive. If you want to get your message across, you first have to listen. Because what is important to the person you are trying to connect with may or may not be important to you. But if you want to connect with them, you’ll be wise to follow the advise of the ancient sage, Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”

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