Cartoon credit: Ryan James, Senior Project Manager, Novatech Engineers, Ottawa
Cute little guys! What fun this will be! After all, cartoon hippos are goofy, clumsy, silly and cute. Cartoon raccoons are such dear little bandits who just want to be cuddled.
In real life? Not so much.
In Africa, the hippopotamus kills about five hundred humans per year. Lions get about a hundred, sharks do ten, and only the crocodile, at a thousand, is a greater menace. And while lions, sharks and crocodiles will kill you to eat you, the hippo will kill you just because he’s grumpy.
And that cuddly little raccoon? Well, he’s not likely to kill you on the spot, but he can give you some pretty nasty diseases and, if cornered, will shred your face and walk away like nothing happened.
So, if these two dudes walk into your bar, you should slip out the back door. Somebody is going to get hurt. Underestimate these guys at your peril.
As communicators, we sometimes presume a cute hippo or a cuddly raccoon, and of course we get hurt. One of the most dangerous things you can do is to mis-read your audience. This is true in all four spheres of communication: societal, enterprise, professional and personal.
Why is failing to know your audience the most fundamental failure of effective communication? Well, let’s recall the Six Essentials of Effective Communication:
1. Understand your listener both emotionally and intellectually.
2. Clearly identify “Point A”: where your listener is at the beginning of your communication.
3. Clearly identify “Point B”: exactly where you want to take your listener.
4. Carefully map the logical and emotional route from Point A to Point B.
5. Plan out your techniques to get your listener from Point A to Point B.
6. Take your listener by the hand and walk him surely and safely from Point A to Point B.
Do you get the point? Unless you know your audience, you can’t even begin to communicate. Underestimating or under-appreciating your listener will get you the disaster you deserve. Any time you walk into a communication experience without understanding your listener, you’re looking for trouble.
Cases in point?
Communicators, know your audience!
Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.