Brenda and Alec are fifteen minutes into their first date. They’ve moved past the pleasantries and are each awkwardly sipping on their drinks. Carrot juice for Alec and iced coffee for Brenda. They met through Brenda’s elderly aunt – an eccentric woman by all accounts – who swears they are perfect for each other.
“Your aunt is interesting,” Alec says. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”
Brenda cringes at the word interesting. She finds that to be a pretty rude thing to say – especially on a first date.
“She seemed pretty convinced we’re soulmates.”
Alec smiles. “If you believe in that type of thing.”
Brenda looks down at her drink. Alec is not perfect for her. He’s too sharp and cold. Rude even.
“Your aunt tells me you’re a teacher,” Alec says. “Do you enjoy that?”
Brenda nods. “I love my kids!”
“God,” he laughs. “I could never be a teacher.”
Alec’s laugh strikes Brenda. He’s sounds like he’s mocking her. This is why Brenda doesn’t date – especially not business types. No one ever respects her job as a teacher.
For the rest of the date Brenda barely says a word. She doesn’t need to provide Alec with any more ammunition. An hour later, when both of their cups are long empty, Brenda excuses herself and claims she has to go.
Later that night, Brenda’s aunt calls her. “Alec said you were quiet, I said not my Brenda, she wouldn’t shut up at a funeral.”
“I didn’t have much to say to him…”
Brenda explains Alec’s comments to her aunt. She rants about him calling her interesting and laughing at her teaching job. She even mentions his soul mate theory. But despite her rising blood pressure, her aunt can’t stop laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Brenda snaps.
“How differently you and Alec perceived your conversations,” she answers. “Alec genuinely meant I was interesting – which I am by the way. He appreciates your love of kids and likes to joke around about Hollywood love stories. He wasn’t being rude sweetheart; he was making conversation!”
From the example above we learn a very important lesson; there is a difference between communication and effective communication. A good marketer needs to see their message in every possible light. The emphasis shouldn’t be on who’s saying it, but who’s hearing it. How will your audience understand your message?
Know Your Audience
To communicate effectively, you must first know your audience. Knowing them will let you know how to speak to them. You wouldn’t speak to a child the same way you would an adult. You would use different language, incentives, slang words. Words also have different meanings depending on cultures and age groups. You need to make sure you know how your message will sound to your audience before hitting send.
Let’s Sum Up
Alec and Brenda may actually be a perfect fit, but their miscommunications kept them from ever being able to explore that. Instead of understanding what was actually being said, Brenda was busy using her earlier experiences and prejudices as a framework. Our audiences are the same way! We need to be knowledgeable about the ideas and worldview that our audience is coming in with so that we can best transfer our message.