The Problem of Over Communication
Just like under-communicating over-communicating poses a serious problem to organizations. Before you read this and immediately write it off as just another rant, think about it. How often do you read internal emails? How about newsletters? How often do you just click delete them? Are there certain people who you filter out in meetings or whose emails get filtered directly into your delete folder?
I have written a few of those filters myself. I’ll admit that there are some emails where I don’t make it past the subject line before they get deleted.
We no longer read, we skim. We no longer sit and watch television, we stream. Sports highlights and Spark Notes. We’ve replaced age old past times with time compressed entertainments that rush past like a bullet train. This has created a brave new world of communication.
Bombarding people with information results in them tuning you out. If a person sends forwards that we feel are unimportant, that person is quickly allocated to the delete list. We might skim the subject to ensure it is another forward, but we go no farther than that. We all do it, it is a defense mechanism that allows us to remain focused and do our tasks. It let’s us filter out the important information from the flood of data that constantly streams over us.
This is the first consequence of over communication. When we provide unfocused information people tune us out and turn us off.
The second problem is that over communicating dilutes your message. Think about communicating like finger painting. The good finger painters in kindergarten don’t use all the colors. They pick and choose. That’s because when we mix too many colors and too much paint you get mud. If you mix too much information in too many ways our message comes out like everyone else’s and gets ignored. On top of that it gets muddy and hard to understand. That means that when we do have something important and interesting to say our audience won’t hear it. It will get lost in the static of other information.
The solution here is simple. Tell your story. Be consistent. Don’t overload people with information. If it doesn’t advance the story shelve it. Make communications more focused, more targeted. Get to know your audience. Learn why they listen to you. Then target specific segments of that audience with the information that interests them. Once you know who they are you can craft a story that they care about and connect with.
That is the moment when fireworks happen, when people start to care about what you are saying. When people want to get involved. When they connect with your message and go out and change the world. Or their operating system, or their car, or their [insert thing you make here]. Or they go out and call their political representative because they feel they have a stake in what you are trying to do. That’s when things change.