If you need ideas on how to get your message across, do this: Read Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
And if you read the book years ago, re-read it. I looked at the book recently and found that it’s even better than I remembered it. In fact, it’s fabulous—an absolute must for anyone who communicates. Made to Stick will not only help you communicate in a clearer and more compelling way, it also provides evidence for counseling those who prefer communication that is dense, detailed or complex.
The premise is simple. As Dan and Chip explain: “We wrote this book to help you make your ideas stick. By ‘stick,’ we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions or behaviors.”
How can you do so? By following Made to Stick’s six principles. These principles may not seem completely new. But the brilliance in Made to Stick is that the Heaths not explain how the principles work (and why), they also provide detailed advice about how to implement them.
Made to Stick at a glance
1. Simplicity. “How do we find the essential core of our ideas? To strip an idea down to its core, we must be . . . relentlessly prioritize . . . Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound.”
2. Unexpectedness. “How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? . . . We can use surprise—an emotion whose function is to increase alertness and cause focus—to grab people’s attention. But surprise doesn’t last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity.”
3. Concreteness. “How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images . . . because our brains are wired to remembered concrete data. In proverbs, abstract truths are often encoded in concrete language: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” ”
4. Credibility. “How do we make people believe our ideas? Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves—a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas.”
5. Emotions. “How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something. Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable gift to a single needy individual than to an entire impoverished region. We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.”
6. Stories. “How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experiences; after years of hearing stories, they have a richer, more complete catalog of critical situations they might confront during a fire and the appropriate response to those situations.”