Redundant Communication Redundancy

I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.

Abraham Lincoln

For a long time, I strove to be efficient in communication. I would carefully consider the right words for things, especially when writing. But I realize now that good communication should have some redundancy.

Most of the time, the point of communicating is to convey information. Of course, there are other reasons people might converse. Redundancy is nice because it gets the message across eventually. Communication is inherently a very lossy channel.

For example, in Permission Marketing, Seth Godin says “you have to run an ad twenty-seven times against one individual before it has its desired impact. Why? Because only one out of nine ads is seen, and you’ve got to see it at least three times before it sinks in.” (87)

You can apply this to your own communications. One tweet or one phone call or even one meaningful conversation probably won’t get the point across.

Good teachers are redundant. They might approach the same subject from different angles by giving an audio, tactile, as well as visual learning experience.

Most religious leaders are probably pretty redundant. How many ways can you express the same fundamental truths?

An interesting side effect of being alright with redundancy makes for more personable communication. I am not as worried about getting the exact right words at all times, because I know that with time, the errors will work themselves out. As a result, conversations are less curt, which enables both people to feel safe.

Interestingly, people change their minds over time. If you assume they still think and do the same things as when you last talked to them, you are likely incorrect. So while you might have the same conversation twice, you might just learn something new or say something in a way that the other person understands better than the first time you said it.

Instead of getting bothered at needing to repeat myself, I should welcome the opportunity to say how I feel and what I believe. (Perhaps this is for relatives who haven’t adjusted to my internal perception of myself.)

Even if you ask the same questions multiple times, you might hear something you didn’t the first time, or the other person might be in a different state of mind than the last time.

The other concept that this relates to is to just start explaining what I am thinking before worrying about whether it is the best way to express the ideas within. An article doesn’t need to be perfect before it can help someone. People who really want the value are ready to read past typos and poor construction.

So be mildly redundant. It might be more useful than you think.

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