You’ve convinced your boss to try out this behavior change thing. Your research is done. Everyone’s bought-off on the strategy. Now, how the blazes do you get your message through?
Don’t try too hard. It’s easier than you think. Keep it simple. (Stupid.)
“Earplugs. The key to a good marriage.”
This, for example, is a pretty good headline. Here’s why:
- It’s honest. It doesn’t use words that overpromise, like “ultimate,” “defy,” “remarkable.” This inherently gives it a low BS factor. “Innovation” and “cutting-edge,” by the way, are among the least sincere and overused words in the language. Skip ‘em entirely.
- It’s direct. It doesn’t try to be too cute or wonderfully witty. That’s what New Yorker cartoons are for.
- It’s short. It doesn’t make people think too much. You make people think, you’re making the finish line a lot harder to reach.
Don’t worry about insulting your audience when you state the obvious, or dim down your messaging. Even the Mensans among us prefer to think less.
Thinking is a magical activity in your toddler years. Then, around 7 years old, logic is introduced and things get more rational. By 12 years of age, abstract reasoning is introduced and we lose the visual and tactile aids that make learning so riveting in our younger years.
Somewhere along the way, the pleasure of learning is also replaced by the motivation of getting something for doing well: stickers, extra recess, trophies. We’re not endorsing this, by the way.
As adults, we continue to strive to educate ourselves, but only because it will get us stuff, like a bigger office, a hotter date, a byline in a professional journal.
Then there’s the sheer saturation of messaging in today’s world. The number of fried neurons is probably even greater among smart people.
Here’s how it breaks down. Chose small, simple, action-oriented words. Short sentences. Throw in a long one once in a while to break up the rhythm, if you’d like. Optionally, run your copy through an online tool like this one to score its complexity. There is no ideal reading level to aim for. Some say 3rd grade. Some say 6th. USA Today writes for a 10th grader.
We say, write like you talk. Say what you need to say. Convince with your facts, not fancy sentences and J. Peterman prose.
Dumber can be smarter. Try it on your next project and let us know how it goes.