Fluency & Familiarity

Studies show we like things that are easy to think about and dislike things that are hard to think about.

You see it all the time.

Complex sentences filled with obscure words and phrases which we have no idea of their meaning.

Topics glorified with the aim of dazzling those communicated to.

But, why?

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in 1950 during the Korean War.

North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, fought against South Korea with the support of the British and US.

These US troops were stationed at the Chosin Reservoir.

But they weren’t alone.

15,000 US troops were surrounded by 120,000 South Korean and Chinese troops, advancing on their position.

Stranded, they were in trouble.

Temperatures fell to -25 degrees at night as the winter conditions became apparent.

And to make matters worse, the mortar sections of the US Marine Corps ran out of mortar shells.

They found themselves defenceless.

60mm mortar shells were code-named “Tootsie Rolls” at the time.

So after days of waiting, the troops radioed for an airdrop of more Tootsie Rolls.

But the radio operator receiving the request didn’t have a code sheet.

He didn’t know what a Tootsie Roll was.

And in the heat of battle, he had to act.

So when the airdrop finally came, 60mm mortar shells weren’t delivered.

Instead, crates of Tootsie Rolls – the chocolate-taffy sweet – were dropped into the war zone.

But the story doesn’t end there…

(We’ll continue this later on.)

Lack of fluency in business communication – and any communication for that matter – is a problem.

We assume that complexity is intelligent.

So we bring poetry or slang or jargon amongst other unwanted guests into our communications – in our sentences and our conversations.

We stop communicating with real purpose.

We end up writing and presenting for ourselves and for our own amusement.

We forget that someone else at the other end of each word is listening or reading, and trying to take action with the information given.

So fluency is lost.

The good communicators avoid this at all costs. They keep it simple.

They don’t make people think more than they need to.

They know that if a message is easy to read, it becomes more understandable and therefore more believable.

And there’s research to back this.

We experience a sense of pleasure when we can understand and process something.

We like things that are familiar (just like we smile when we meet or see people that we recognise).

If something is hard to understand, we associate the experience with negativity.

Marketing and sales people know that negativity usually signals the end of the deal.

The end of the conversation.

Take this example from the US Stock Market for a different perspective.

Companies with names easier to pronounce performed better than those with harder to pronounce names.

Where the initial value of the company’s share was higher if this name or its code was easier to process.


Back to The Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Initially baffled by the Tootsie Rolls delivered to them, the US troops found another purpose for them.

They warmed the Tootsie Rolls in their mouths and armpits and used them as adhesive.

The chocolatey goo then froze in the cold air, successfully repairing their equipment.

The troops hung in there, fighting their way through Korea and surviving by eating the Tootsie Rolls.

To conclude, the troops got plain lucky.

Business professionals, marketers and salespeople may not get the same luck with communicating to their target market or hitting performance targets.

But if they side with fluency and familiarity, they might not need luck.

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20 thoughts on “Fluency & Familiarity

  1. Great article, made me remember the reason we need to remember think about our audience when communicating ANYTHING! People always tend to see doing this as a hindrance because of the additional thought it entails but if people cannot understand what you’re telling them you may as well not have bothered in the first place!

  2. Reblogged this on Misadventures In Miscellany and commented:
    This is a great article, made me remember the reason we need to remember think about our audience when communicating ANYTHING! People always tend to see doing this as a hindrance because of the additional thought it entails but if people cannot understand what you’re telling them you may as well not have bothered in the first place!

  3. Yes, this is useful and applicable not only to Sales and Marketing, but also life. Make it simple and direct! Communications, a 2-way at that, is very important!

  4. Waw, I really liked reading this , the part about losing fluency is really interesting and yes I agree with you when you talk about being simple and understandable, the negativity in the complex imagery. I do love poetry and writing poems, and I admit I find it is hard to try to interprete things sometimes, but still I love it.

  5. Wow wonderful presentation and also your bar chart is wonderful! I didn’t know this about code word Tootsie roll! 😉 Excellent integration into this piece! 🙂

  6. Okay, you just totes killed my chill, Gareth. Because, well, I write colloquially, the same way I speak. I know how to communicate properly. I’m degreed in language, for Pete’s sake. But, I’m also from Texas. I use a lot of jargon, aphorisms, and drop lots of -Gs from my verbs. Like I’m fixin’ to do in this very sentence.
    Of course, you are correct. In fact, my spouse just pointed out to me this morning that one of my responses on Twitter wouldn’t make sense to most readers. He said, “If you say you’re agin’ something, people are going to think you mean ‘aging’ without the -g. They won’t know that it means ‘against’ because it’s too Texan. You’ll look like a hick or an idiot.” Yeah, well, he meant well. And, I know you do too.
    Still, it doesn’t mean y’all aren’t killin’ my chill.

  7. The most important is communication, without trying to prove who is right, simple and direct conversation can be understood easier🎈

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