Just like physical attractiveness, intelligence is seen as a positive attribute. Consequently, we look for intelligence in a mate and those we hold close.
Research carried out by Dutch psychologist Pieternel Dijkstra and colleagues in 2017 has shown that single men look for partners who are smart, valuing intellectual attributes more than personality or a desire to have a family.
It is generally accepted that smarter (and more educated) people have larger vocabularies. So it follows that a bigger vocabulary makes you smarter, doesn’t it? Long words are a sign of an educated brain, aren’t they?
Yes, in theory.
While it’s true that longer words may make you look clever to your peers, they don’t to the rest of the world
And the science backs this up.
The hopefully ironically-named Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly study by Daniel M Oppenheimer at Princeton University, found that writers using clear and simple words were judged to be smart and those that used needlessly long words came across as less intelligent and less confident.
In the experiment, they wrote admissions essays with three levels of complexity. The simple ones rated higher than the moderately complex ones that in turn outperformed the downright complex ones.
Then they had students read different translations of Descartes’ Mediation IV but only some were told the author’s real identity.
Unsurprisingly, the author was rated more intelligent when the writing was easy to understand.
It’s not up to others to understand you, it’s up to you to make yourself understood
When I was younger, I can remember my father talking to me about the vocabulary I was using. It was probably some teenage rant about something I can’t remember.
All I remember is him telling me that you should use language that’s appropriate to the audience you are addressing.
I was too full of teenage angst at the time to take it in…
but he was right.
Whatever you write, your audience must be able to read it — stands to reason, doesn’t it?
So how do I connect with customers?
There’s nothing wrong with an academic style of writing in its context.
These days, most modern language guides take their cue from traditional authorities such as the Fowler brothers, who on page one of their influential The King’s English, published in 1906, told readers to ‘Prefer the short word to the long’.
But it goes much further than that. The key to speaking customer is the same as the key to speaking French, Spanish or Italian.
First, you need to learn the basics
The vocabulary, the grammar, the syntax.
Then you need to go out and practice
Go speak to the natives, listen to what they say and how they say it.
You can use surveys. A quick email with a link Typeform, Survey Monkey or the like will do the trick. You can even build one on Google Forms.
Pop in a question asking them if they’d like to be interviewed. You’ll be surprised by the number of people that agree.
Using the results of your research and a little imagination, create a customer avatar.
Only then will you be able to speak to them in terms they understand.
I spent 12 years learning French at school and university. It was only when I went to Paris and got down and dirty with the natives that I started to speak it like them. You won’t need so long to speak ‘customer’ but it will take effort.
It’s worth it. Trust me.
First published on thesmartmessageframework.com