In a recent issue of his Leadership Wired newsletter (Vol. 6, Issue 17), John Maxwell explains, “The ability to make the complex seem simple is a mark of a good communicator. Some people do this naturally–they have an innate capacity to explain complex concepts in ways that evoke understanding instead of vacant looks. As I often say, they know how to put the cookies on the lower shelf so everybody can have some.

“For other people, speaking with such clarity is more of a challenge. When you’re a leader, however, it doesn’t matter whether explaining tough ideas is easy or difficult for you. You have to be able to be able to put the cookies on the lower shelf–and do it consistently–if you want to be successful.

“Here are four questions that will help you communicate complicated issues more effectively.
1. Do I understand it?
2. How can I help others understand it?
3. Do they understand it?
4. Did they understand it well enough to help someone else understand it?

“If you want your words to elicit fewer blank stares and more nods of understanding, make it a point to ask yourself these four questions whenever you are trying to explain a complicated concept. It’s the only way I know of to ensure that you are putting the cookies on the lower shelf so everybody can have some.”

(Adapted from Leadership Wired by Dr. John C. Maxwell; copyright © 2003 Injoy. Leadership Wired is available via email on a free subscription basis. Subscribe here.)

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