I’ll bet that some time today you had this experience: You received an email about a topic you care about. But when you opened the message, you encountered long, dense text that seemed like a lot of work to read. (Plus, there were several attachments.) Despite your interest, you thought, “I’ll get to that later” and closed the window.

Vicki Kunkel, author of Instant Appeal: The 8 Primal Factors That Create Blockbuster Success, writes that it’s important to understand this about human beings: We don’t want to work hard. In fact, we’re as lazy as cats, which is why Ms. Kunkel calls this phenomenon “The Garfield Rule.”

“Whenever we humans take on a task, we’ll look for the easiest, fastest simplest way to complete it, and we’ll stop the minute we get minimally acceptable results,” Ms. Kunkel writes. “The universal human preference to find the path of least effort.” This isn’t just a product of our modern, overscheduled culture—it’s ingrained deep in our anthropological conditioning.

The implication for employee communication may seem obvious, but it’s worth revisiting: You need to work hard to make communication easy for employees to consume/experience.

That means communication needs to be:

  • Short, so it doesn’t take too long
  • Simple, so it’s not difficult to understand
  • Friendly, so it’s not off-putting
  • And, most important, useful, so it helps employees answer a question, solve a problem or achieve an objective

The problem is, easy is often difficult, when the topic is complicated and subject-matter experts want to include the kitchen sink. But putting in the effort is worthwhile, since the easier you make communication, the more likely employees will pay attention.

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