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Compensation Café

Who Are You Talking To?

By Chuck Csizmar | 3-min read

This article was originally published on Compensation Café, and is republished here with the author’s permission.

I read a movie review the other day and noticed that in the first few paragraphs there were two words that I didn’t immediately understand.  The words “bifurcated” and “atavistic” were used, presumably to help readers better understand what the reviewer thought of the movie.

Well, those two words are not part of my everyday vocabulary, and upon reflection, I might be able to explain “bifurcated,” though aren’t sure what that has to do with the subject movie.  As to “atavistic,” I think that I’ve heard the word before, but really don’t know what it means.

Now I consider that my intelligence level may be considered a bit above average, so I have to wonder – who the heck was the reviewer talking to with their review?  I certainly didn’t “get it” as far as whatever points they were trying to make.  And NO, I didn’t drop everything to look up those two words.  What I did do was stop reading the review.

Who Are They Talking To?

This is especially important when considering your compensation communications.  If you want someone to hear what you have to say, to understand your message or point of view, to learn from reading your words, you have to talk to them at a level they are comfortable with.  Not you.  This is not about you.  Or at least it shouldn’t be.

There’s a lot of information out there, a problem for our times, some would say.  So if you want to get your message across, you need to be able to reach your target audience with as simple a message as you can.  So they all can understand, so they can repeat it to others, so that they’ll remember it tomorrow.

Is your text written at the New York Times 8th grade level?  If not, why not?  Don’t try to impress your audience.  It doesn’t work.

Losing Your Audience

A similar experience happens when listening to a speaker at a compensation conference, a webinar or even at your local professional association meeting.  The speaker uses a word or phrase that is foreign to you.  What did they say?”  Your mind stops listening as it struggles to identify the strange word and what it means – and then to put it in context.  Maybe you’ll figure it out.  Maybe you won’t.  Meanwhile, though, the speaker has kept on talking – but you haven’t been listening while your mind was paused.  Now you have a struggle to catch up.  Maybe you can.  Maybe you can’t.

Then it happens again.  Another mind pause while you mentally translate, “what was that again?”  And so it goes, and you never quite fully understand the speaker’s message. 

That’s not communication.  That’s a speaker talking to a mirror.  You’re incidental.

The Writer’s Club

That’s what I call it, to describe the majority of contributors to professional journals.  For a number of years, I was on the article review committee for one of those magazines, and I often wondered who these authors were writing to.  If perchance they were trying to educate or explain practical tactics that would assist practitioners with their immediate problems, then I’m afraid that many an article wouldn’t pass muster.

That’s because many articles (check it out) are written by academics and consultants, not practitioners who have dirt under their fingernails from working in the trenches.  As a result, practical advice (what can I do now?) is usually in short supply.  What we all too often get instead is conceptual “stuff” from the view at 30,000 feet, broad inspirational white papers that you just know your senior leadership won’t even consider.

This isn’t always the case, of course, but how many of those articles are you able to wade through before your eyes glaze over?   Not just read the words, but learn from?  Heavy stuff.  Heavy lifting.

When someone is communicating, is actually reaching you with their message, you listen, you absorb, you learn.  It’s the same for me.

So talk to me, not to the mirror.

Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations.  He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant.  Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation.  He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.