Tell It To Me Like I’m Six Years Old

Tell Me Like I'm SixOk, right off the bat I’m going to confess and let you know that I’m borrowing my title from Chris Brogan. As I’ve recently finished his book The Impact Equation I’m especially in tune with how people, and marketers in general, articulate their ideas.

Chapter 3 in Chris’ book talked about one of his mentors, Ken Hadge. Apparently Ken made a habit of asking his students and other business leaders to break down and explain their ideas in the simplest fashion. “Tell it to me like I’m six years old” he was quoted as saying.

Of course when I first read this my mind instantly raced to imagine some form of bumbling baby talk. But then I remembered that I actually HAVE a 6 year old at home and NO… she doesn’t sound like a stuttering fool.

In fact, her ability to convey complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings using simple words is terrific. She makes her ideas known in the most clear and concise ways. And I believe this is exactly the point in trying to mimic this form of communication.

Using big words doesn’t always translate to greater impact on your readers. In fact, the opposite is often the case. Bringing your ideas down to the lowest common denominator of your tribe is a fantastic method of attracting deeper interest. Unless you’re writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, why not connect people using simple words and phrases?

So in preparing to offer some ways we can all begin to once again write like children, I did a little research to find some methods of doing just that. Some of the best ideas I could find include:

Exaggerate – Young people tend to exaggerate everything. From what little Sally said in class today to how bumpy the bus ride home felt, kids tell stories with wildly exaggerated details. An great example of how you might use this technique comes from the folks at Cheez-It:

Get Excited – Think about this one for a second. When we see a kid who’s reserved, quiet, or shy we immediately think something is wrong. Why? Because we’re used to seeing kids in a mostly excited state. When you’re young, everything is new and open to exploration. This in turn makes the world seem, well… exciting. Write with excitement and watch how contagious it becomes.

To see a great example of the excitement kids have, check out this boy’s speech after learning to ride a bike:

Sense of Wonder – When you write with a sense of wonder you hold your reader’s attention. The technique involves imagining how an experience felt for the first time and writing as if it were once again fresh and new. Think in terms of Madonna’s Like a Virgin 1984 hit single but without the sexual connotation.

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story” creator) addresses this technique in his March 2012 TED talk:

Just think, Pablo Picasso once said…

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Now if we could all just learn to write like a child, I think we’d see our collective impact improve.

About David Wittlinger

Gummy Bear addict. Web designer. Copywriter. Social Media Strategist.