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The People Who Don’t Get the Joke

In every stand-up comedy routine, there are people in the audience who don’t get the joke. Great comedians don’t get flustered when this happens. They don’t interrupt their routine to explain all the nuances involved in their bit. To do so would ruin the experience for the ones who get it, the ones who don’t need the explanation, the ones who are delighted with the show.

So what do they do? They move on. They keep telling their stories, they keep making their points, and they do it with the conviction that it’ll reach who it needs to reach. They understand that effectiveness at hitting their target, not universal appeal, is the ultimate goal.

In the The 2% who misunderstand you, Seth Goin writes:

If you insist on getting every single person in the room to understand every nuance of your presentation, you’ve just signed up to bore and alienate the very people you needed most.

When you find yourself overwriting, embracing redundancy and overwhelming people with fine print, you’re probably protecting yourself against the 2%, at the expense of everyone else. (And yes, it might be 10% or even 90%…. that’s okay).

When we hold back and dumb down, we are hurting the people who need to hear from us, often in a vain attempt to satisfy a few people who might never choose to actually listen.

It’s quite okay to say, “it’s not for you.”

One of the most ineffective ways to communicate is to write or speak as if it’s necessary for every person to understand you, agree with you, endorse you, or laugh with you.

Yes, it’s true that you can’t communicate effectively if you don’t know who your audience is. You can’t know who your audience is, however, unless you know who your audience is not.

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