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Re-write: Clarify!

"I want you to want me." Rick Nielson, performed by Cheap Trick

According to, a 15th century Venitian monk named Angelo Barovier "took seaweed, mixed this with molten glass and formed cristallo, the clearest glass anyone had ever seen." Until then, glass was not clear. Stained glass is beautiful, but doesn't let in much light.

The same goes for writing and any communication. It's easier to be colorful than it is to be clear.

Case in Point

A friend posted a recruitment video. After slogging through his 3 minutes, I didn't know what he was hoping to achieve. "Well, I had 8 points I wanted to make." Yes, and his audience, like yours, is pressed for time. You may want to communicate 8 points, but if you struggled to remember them (viewers could see my friend checking his notes), how in the world would the audience remember them?

I suggested he get clear, and I mean crystal, or cristallo clear, on what he wants as a result of his video. Something like, "I want excellent candidates to feel attracted to my company." Or, as with another real case, you might want "my company to loosen up the 'at desk' rules under the new work-from-home policy." Whatever it is, be clear.

The Eyes Have It

"I was being clear. They just didn't understand." How often have you heard that one? If your audience doesn't get your message, the burden rests with you, the sender. In person, we get clues from our listeners with micro nods of the head and with verbal clues like, "uh-huh," both of which can be missing in video conferences.

One of the biggest challenges with Zoom meetings is choosing between A) showing eye-contact by looking directly into your camera or B) seeing your audience, by looking at them. As of today, I don't know of a technology that lets you do both at the same time. Thus, we're robbed of a key communication clue. This means we need to use polling, "hand raises," and pauses more than ever.

Clarity of expression requires clarity of thought. Rudolf Flesch wrote How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively in 1946, and yet, except for some of the popular references, his book still lives up to its subtitle: "Your complete course in the art of communication." He shares one of his goals: Raising our respect for rational thought.

Toward the end of a chapter he calls "Feedom from Error?" he writes, "Of course we all pride ourselves on having an open mind. But what do we mean by that? More often than not, an open mind means we stick to our opinions and let other people have theirs. This fills us with a pleasant sense of tolerance and lack of bias–but it isn't good enough. What we need is not so much an open mind–readiness to accept new ideas–but an attitude of distrust toward our own ideas."

We may only sometimes be as clear as to what we want as Rick Nielson was in "I Want You to Want Me," or Rudolph Flesch above, but we can always think through and express what we want before Zooming into our next meeting, right?

Note: Keep your questions and comments coming, either privately or right here in the comments section.

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