Once is not enough: getting your message heard

by Betty Lochner on May 1, 2012

 The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ~ George Bernard Shaw



Would you like to increase the chances that your message will get remembered?  Especially an important one?

Studies show that when we want to communicate a value or expectation, we need to share the message as many as ten separate times before it is remembered and internalized by your audience.

And when I say your audience, I mean anyone in your life —  your child, your boss, your spouse, your co-workers, your best friend… anyone.

It’s important that we regularly communicate our values and expectations daily, weekly, and even monthly. Communicating an idea or value only once and thinking “they’ve got it” doesn’t work.

When you want your message to really be heard and even influence behavior in others it will be well worth your effort to use the concept I like to call Take 10.  It could also be called say things at least 10 different times so it will be remembered, but I like Take 10 better.  Here’s a two-step process to use to make Take 10 work for you:

1) Frequency counts.

Repeat your message at least 10 times.  Not all in succession, but at each appropriate opportunity you have. And, always communicate with respect. The appearance of nagging or scolding will reduce the impact of your message.

For example, if you are trying to introduce the expectation of being polite to your child, you should first introduce the expectation.  Then, every day remind them of the expectation and what it looks like.  Tell them why it’s important and then model the behavior you want to see. Don’t get frustrated or impatient when they don’t respond immediately.  Be patient and persistent and say it at least 10 times before you expect results.

2) Keep your message simple.

Make sure your message is uncomplicated, and limit it to just a few major points. You’ll lose your audience if you present important information in a way that isn’t easy to process or listen to.  Beware of lecturing, being bossy, or using big words.  Keep it simple and tailor it to your audience.

Here’s the bottom line:  if you are introducing a new habit, value or expectation that is important to you, don’t expect it to sink in to your audience the first time you say it.

Knowing that you need to communicate important values and expectations more than once, and then doing that, will go a long way toward preventing mis-communication and disappointment in your relationships.  Give Take 10 a try!



Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. It’s also now available on Kindle!


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