Structure is critical for persuasive and clear communication. It may not seem relevant for communication, but it is like constructing a building.
If you have ever watched a building being constructed, you already know the power of structure. Setting the foundation takes time, but nothing could be more critical to the building. If you have a crack in the foundation, the whole building is in danger of eventual damage and collapse.
After the foundation is in place, next comes the framework that provides the strength to hold the building together. Framing, constructing the walls, and adding a roof sets the context for all the details that come later - both outside and inside.
All of that initial work is imperative and often takes time. But it is not very satisfying since you cannot see much of what the building will eventually look like.
Clear communication is no different in principle. Setting the foundation and framing your thoughts requires diligent work, but once it is done…wham! You are on a new path to understanding the power of working with the dynamics of thinking and talking in the world of effective, clear communication.
So, if you frame things right in your mind, they’ll come out right for others.
Structure is the foundation of our THOUGHT-Talk System®. You learn how your brain works and how communication works best with structure. This means you will be better equipped to handle the confusing barrage of information the world is scattering around at the speed of light.
When you use structure, you enhance your ability to think and speak clearly, which are critical for career advancement and personal success. So, be patient and focus your energy on creating a clear structure for your communication. Again, when you structure your communication, you dramatically improve your ability to communicate clearly.
Structure Demands Behavior
All work and most of life deal with problems and solutions. You have a job because you solve a problem of some type for someone.
The same is true for communication. It is most often about problems and solutions. And importantly, clear communication follows the same structural pattern as almost everything you seek to accomplish in this world. The problem you face generally involves one or all of the following - rudderless, blind, or unfocused.
When you are rudderless, you have an unclear destination in view. In sailing, if you have a rudder directing you to an unknown place or you have no rudder at all ---what's the difference?
When you are blind, it means a lack of clarity about the facts of how things really are. In a sense, it is about the same challenge a jet aircraft can have if its instrument panel goes out---not much of a chance of continuing in the right direction.
Finally, when unfocused, you are inconsistent and uncoordinated toward a clear end result, so your actions are reactive like you are fighting brush fires.
In communication, being rudderless, blind, and unfocused is a recipe for disaster.
The solution to this dangerous trinity is concentrating on the future, the present, and the transition. For simplicity, we refer to these as THERE, HERE, and PATH.
- THERE is about the destination you want to arrive at in the future.
- HERE is about your current position or your present location.
- PATH is your transition from HERE to THERE, the plan or strategy you follow.
So, for clear communication, you think about what you want to communicate or cause the listener to understand (THERE). You consider what they already know or need to know (HERE). And, with those two points in mind, you create a PATH to help them move from where they are (HERE) and arrive at THERE, the destination.
The THERE-HERE-PATH process is part of a simple, larger 3 step process:
- THERE - Decide on a clear end result or target for your communication.
- HERE - Look at the current reality considering what you know, what the audience knows, and what may be missing from both.
- PATH - Identify actions and approaches (recipes) that help you communicate well.
- Move quickly to act on the first step in your recipe. Even getting the oven started heating gets you in motion!
- Improve as you go by intentionally following a recurring pattern of ALA (Acting, Learning, and Adjusting). After each action, you complete, pay attention to what you learned and what the next best step should be (often, the next step includes an adjustment to the original plan).
- Persevere, refuse to stop, and make “quit quitting” a part of your creed.
- Remember, you are using a process to create solutions.
"The creative process has had more impact, power, influence, and success than any other process in history. All of the arts, many of the sciences, architecture, pop culture and the entire technological age we live in, exists because of the creative process." - Robert Fritz, Creating
Any discussion about structure needs to include “tension seeks resolution.” Especially when using structure in communication.
“In thinking about structures, it is important to recognize one of the greatest structures in the universe: Tension Seeks Resolution” (Robert Fritz).
While we often refer to it as "tension seeks relief," the idea is that items “want” to come together.
- Questions Seek Answers
- Hunger Seeks Food
- Loneliness Seeks Companionship
- Water Seeks the Lowest Place
- Headache Seeks Quiet
- Knock Knock Seeks Who’s There
A structure is simply the relationship created between connected elements. Structures are all around you, and they demand what happens.
For example, jokes are structured a certain way --- “Knock Knock,” it starts. “Who’s there?” it continues. “Police…”…”Police who?” Police, let’s quit telling Knock Knocks.
And whether it is the structure of the brain, the structure of a building, or the structure of a presentation, each demands a specific behavior, response, or reaction. For example, if you are 6 feet tall, you can WANT to stand up straight, but if you are in a room with a four-foot ceiling, the structure prevents that. Structure demands behavior and most often wins!
When you do not provide a good communication structure, you provide a bad one. And a lousy structure communicates unclear thinking and ineffective and confusing words. The bad structure starts with your thoughts; if your thoughts are muddled, your words will be muddled too. On the other hand, if you structure a clear presentation, you will create clear communication.
That means you can structure persuasion, which is persuasive. While there may be no guarantees in this life, if you structure your thoughts and words well, the odds are good that you will communicate clearly.
However, that slight advantage is usually all you need to be ahead of the crowd.