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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Made to Stick, How to Communicate Ideas

When you speak, most of your ideas will fall bounce off of people and disappear from them forever. A very few ideas have what it takes to stick with people. In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath explore the stickiness of some ideas over others. They start by looking at the incredibly sticky ideas that are urban legends. Urban legends connect on an emotional level with concrete details yet have a twist at the end that really draws us in. They obviously wrote an entire book about how to make ideas stick (and you should read it, it's good stuff), so I won't explain everything they've said so well.

I want to share one of the points that they make that relates to public speaking. Good communication is aware of schemata. A schema (the singular of schemata) is a psychology word used to describe a pattern of thoughts. One of the examples in the book is the schema of a chair. We hold in our thoughts the idea of what a chair ought to be and do, and that can encompass a huge variety from folding metal chairs to plush leather wing-back chairs. Connect your idea to a schema that people are already familiar with and you are letting them do most of your communication. So I can tell you about a rickety wooden chair and you have a fairly clear picture of what I'm talking about. I added two words to the chair-schema and that is sufficient to differentiate one chair from millions of others.

How can you use schemata to communicate more effectively?

(Note: The book link earns me a small commission on any sales)

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