Paint a Picture

I was reminded recently of the power of a picture when trying to convey a concept or a thought to other people.

I work at Xerox as a Business Systems Analyst and last week I was trying to explain to a team of 8 people how I thought some messaging should appear on one of our customer facing web pages. The idea of what I wanted was clear in my mind, but as I was explaining it to others, I could tell they weren’t “seeing” what I was describing.  Although I made repeated attempts to explain more clearly, I still wasn’t getting through.  After the meeting I put together a quick Power Point mockup of what my vision was and emailed it to the team.  As soon as each team member viewed the mockup, they instantly understood how I thought this web page should look.  Everyone had the same picture in their mind.  The picture I wanted them to see.

When we’re communicating with someone, we’re never sure what picture of the topic they hold in their mind.  We can’t really be sure if they are on the same page as us, or if they have a picture in their mind that is completely different from what we see.  It would be nice if we could see the picture someone has in their mind.  Sometimes I wish people had cartoon thought bubbles above their heads so I could see what picture they have and what they’re thinking.  Most times I’m glad our thought bubbles aren’t visible, because I’d probably get my feelings hurt a lot.  J

The best thing we can do to ensure that we are communicating clearly, and that people have the same picture in their mind as what we’re attempting to explain, is to paint that picture for them.  There are several ways this can be done, such as:

  • Create a detailed mockup
  • Write out a rough sketch, chart, or drawing
  • Make a comparison to something they’re familiar with
    • It’s as big as a football field
    • It’s the same color yellow as the McDonald’s arches
    • It’s the same shape as the state of Nevada

(Did you have a picture in your mind of each of those items as you read this?)

What are some other ways we can paint pictures for other people?  Where can you start to paint clear pictures for people you communicate with this week?

As we seek to cause greater things to happen, we’ll need to become skilled at sharing our ideas and visions with others.  Look for opportunities in your communication to paint a picture for your listeners to hold in their mind.  You’ll be thrilled with how effective your communication will be and how your influence will grow.


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