Word Salads.

I recently gave a presentation in a workshop about clarity in communication. One thing that I have noticed, which is counterintuitive, is that lack of clarity is not correlated to complexity.

You would imagine that as subject matters get more complex, clarity would be more difficult. However, these two concepts are actually separate. The relationship between clarity and complexity is not linear or directly proportional, but rather it is contingent upon the understanding of the speaker and their ability to effectively communicate concepts.

You can explain simple things in complex ways, and complex things in simple ways.

It is really about bridging the gap between your level of knowledge and your audiences. It’s about making them see what you see, feel what you feel, and understand what you understand. That’s where the real art and skill of communication come into play. To do this effectively, one needs to maintain a balance between being comprehensive and being comprehensible.

I am reminded of the brilliant book The Order of Time by the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, who manages to write about the extremely complex concept of Quantum Mechanics in simple and beautiful prose such as:

We are stories, contained within the twenty complicated centimeters behind our eyes.

Clarity in communication is founded in clarity of thinking. One needs to deeply understand a subject matter to communicate it to others clearly. I often like to joke that if you don’t know what you’re talking about, the easiest way to hide that fact is to write 100-page report.

Sometimes, clarity comes from finding the right analogies, examples, stories, and metaphors. While you need to have mastery of the technical details, finding ways to connect with your audience in a human, relatable way creates understanding. Stories and examples are key.

The key thing to avoid are word salads. This happens when there is a lot of volume, but little substance. Many organisations suffer from this. Their leadership can speak for 30 minutes, and yet nothing is said. A 50-page strategy report is issued, but the next action steps are unclear and nobody is aligned.

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