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How Critical Thinking Can Help Communication

6/5/2018 (Permalink)

It has been said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” And if you have tried to make an eight-year-old do their homework or walk someone through a full system restore to their cell phone, then you may feel that this in fact true. So how do you get a message across when the most direct way is not working, or the other party isn’t exactly receptive? You have to change the delivery of the message without changing the message. Simple right, not so much.

The concept of making a message more receptive isn’t the same as hiding pet medicine in a treat, the point of adjusting the message is so that the other party comprehends the message not just accepts it. It can take a lot of creativity and critical thinking skills to “customize information for the audience,” but how do you practice that? Puzzles? Puns? Math? Well, yes. But there is a way to do so that doesn’t require an investment in school supplies.

Years ago, there was a hashtag on Twitter #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly that centered around describing a film’s plot without any significant details. It was just as much fun to decipher the movie as it was to come up with a description all of your own. I then tried using it to train a group of support reps on how to deliver a message to a customer if they did not seem to understand or accept it: saying no without using “no,” describing directions on a computer or phone, etc. And this method seemed to click with those that I trained even more so than the standard “say this not that” lessons. So the idea was itself an example of how it worked.

Some of the examples are simple and easy to guess:

Moody billionaire works out his abandonment issues by arguing with clowns (Batman).

And some were more complex and required a great deal of thought:

A widower’s son is kidnapped, and the only person that will help him has short-term amnesia (Finding Nemo).

These exercises helped to jumpstart the trainees critical thinking on how they can change the message and improve their customer service skills and increased efficiency. And are a great way to see you can help get your message across the next time you feel like you are stuck in a loop with a customer, coworker, or family member.

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