I watched a video some time ago where Tony Robbins explains the secret to learning. The title of the video is Strategies Are The Secret To Learning - How To Make Learning Easy. It's a 10-minute video which I recommend, but if you are in a hurry, here’s a recap of the key concepts. In this article I’ll focus on what we can learn from it in terms of effective communication.
First of all, Tony Robbins explains what learning is. Learning is the creation of a relationship between two things: what we already know (what is already in our heads, what we already understand) and what we don’t know. The moment we link something we don't know with something we do know, that’s when learning happens. That's when we start to understand what we couldn’t understand before.
And what’s the best way to create that relationship? Analogies. An analogy is nothing but a relationship between what we don’t know and what we know. It’s no coincidence that the best teachers are those who use analogies. Tony Robbins points out that one of the best teachers in history is Jesus. Regardless of the religious aspect, if we look at this from a communication perspective, 2,000 years have passed and we still talk about him – what he did and what he said – so we probably have something to learn from him in terms of communication. For example, when he wanted to explain how to bring people to the Christian Church to the fishermen, he didn't tell them "I want you to go out and recruit Christians", because the concept of recruiting meant nothing to them. Instead, he said "I want you to become fishers of men." And they immediately understood the entire process of recruiting. What Jesus did was connecting something the fishermen didn’t know (recruiting) with something they already knew (fishing).
When we communicate, if those who are listening don't understand, it's not their fault – it's ours. It's always our fault, because we're trying to explain things in the wrong way, using references that our audience doesn’t have.
Here’s the takeaway to remember: if you want to explain anything to anyone, the best way to do so is to create a relationship between two things: what the audience doesn't know yet and what they already know. That's when learning happens.
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