OK, so before you start to furrow your brows, hear us out. Just in case any of you aren’t directly involved in technical professions, you should know that this post isn’t meant to sound condescending in any way. Of course, every field has its own jargon, acronyms, and set of essential skills (many that we do not understand ourselves), and that’s OK to leave it to the experts.
That’s probably one reason why sites like Reddit’s Explain Like I’m Five have grown so popular. People need explanations that they can easily understand in order to make good decisions. In addition, they want to listen to people who make an effort to listen to them.
Five Suggestions for Communicating With Non-Technical People at Work
If you’re involved in technical sales, support, or development, you know that you’ve got to use words and phrases that your clients, coworkers, and even bosses can understand. It turns out that reducing complex technology to simple terms is actually more difficult than discussing these matters with somebody at your own level. Hopefully, these tips will help you communicate better with non-techies and also to understand why it’s so important.
Can You Write It Down First?
If you plan to send an email or another written communication, you might pass your words through an app like Hemingway first. You can also use this app if you plan to give a speech and have already composed the text on a computer file. Keep in mind that even most college textbooks don’t exceed the 10th-grade reading level, so you might aim even a little lower for clear written communications. Don’t let the app frustrate you. Just use it for some tips to make your language as concise and clear as possible.
2. Remove or Explain Jargon
Small business owners probably don’t understand terms like point-to-point encryption. They just want to make sure that their payment system or online communications remain secure to help protect their business. If you have to use some jargon to differentiate your solution from others, then you had better explain it first. It’s best if you focus on the benefits and advantages of your solutions in terms your audience can understand.
3. Use Visuals to Help Explain Complex Topics
Your clients, coworkers, and even bosses are humans, and human beings process visual data the best. In fact, people can process visual information 60,000 times faster than text and gather 90 percent of all information that way. If you encounter topics that have proven tough to explain to non-techies, you might find or prepare graphic images, slides, or even videos to help.
4. Tell Stories
Most technical people have grown frustrated because it seems like some people don’t have any interest in learning more. Even though people in another department or customers could take action to solve the problem, they don’t seem interested in taking action if it means they have to learn something new.
Very often, it helps if you can illustrate the topic with a story that people can relate back to their own lives. For example, you might explain the concept of network traffic to the vehicle traffic they probably experience often during their commute.
TechRepublic illustrated the importance of listening to ensure good communication by telling a story about the famous Titanic disaster. The radio operator actually interrupted an iceberg warning from another ship by telling the operator on the other end to shut up. When your managers, executives, coworkers, or customers explain a critical problem to you, let them finish. The last thing you want to do is interrupt them with your solution just because they have paused to take a breath. First, you risk not getting all of the information that you need. Just as important, you risk frustrating the other party to the point that they won’t want to listen to you.
Communicating With Non-Technical People Is a Pervasive Problem
Difficulty communicating with people who lack the education and/or experience that you do isn’t unique to technical people. Even if you’re not an IT pro, you can certainly relate to the problem and translate some of this to your own profession. Try to reduce jargon, communicate in a way that appeals to the listener, and make sure you listen. If you do these things, you will be the person who people turn to for answers and solutions.