Are You Making Yourself Clear?

This article reveals the 4 essential secrets for explaining yourself in a way that others can clearly understand.

One of my greatest teachers in life is the role being a Dad. It puts me in a position where I have to explain concepts in a simple and effective way while still keeping my daughter’s attention.

If you can explain something complex in a way that a child understand, you’re on the road to becoming a good communicator.

Have you ever had to train a co-worker or explain a complex concept? For you to effectively make yourself understood, there are a few key tools you might consider having on hand:

The Mountaintop View, Primers, Connectors, and Cheer-leading.

The Mountaintop View

When you stand on a mountain peak and take in the view, you see everything at once -the BIG picture. You see the forest, the valley, the village, the other mountains and valleys in the distance, the clouds, …everything. You see their relationship to one another and how they fit together.

The important thing about this mountaintop view is that it provides a context for everything.

Like putting a puzzle together, having the big picture on the box cover to work from helps to make more sense of all the individual puzzle pieces.

Context provides meaning and purpose to all the pieces. It is the answer to the question “Why?”

“Why do I have to file these reports by 2pm every day?”

“Because John’s schedule only allows him to read them between 2:15 and 3:15pm. Then he has to write and send his final report to head office by 4:30pm.”

Context helps a person to see how all the pieces fit together.

Beginning with a very broad mountaintop overview of your concept gives your listener an overall feel for the idea you’re explaining.

Make sure s/he gets the basic concept before moving on.


When you paint a wall, its a good idea to prime it first. Why? Because, once primed, the wall more readily accepts the new color and allows for an even coat.

The same is true for helping a person to understand something – you want to prime them and prepare their mind to receive information in a way that can be understood and retained.

There are two important primers to note: emotion and expectancy.

Primer #1 – Emotion

Your listener’s emotional state (mood) is essential to note before you begin explaining things in detail. If they are in a negative state, their ability to learn is already compromised.

Negative emotions are all variant expressions of stress. You lose 10-15 IQ points when under stress and your ability to reason is reduced due in part to a change of blood flow in the brain. A person’s focus under stress is very “zoomed-in” and disconnected. They’ll see puzzle pieces but will have lost the box cover.

Positive emotions are all variant expressions of a relaxed state. Blood flow returns to the pre-frontal cortex boosting your IQ and allowing for a greater sense of reason to return. Your sense of reason allows you to make bigger picture connections. So, now you have the puzzle pieces AND box cover to work with.

Primer #2 – Expectancy

When a person is learning something new, they will naturally place their mindset in submission to their trainer, who is now perceived by them as the “authority” on the subject they are learning. In this submissive state, they are highly open to suggestion and will accept what you tell them as true (within reason, of course).

Accepting what you say as true forms a new belief in their mind and creates an expectation.

You can think of a belief/expectation as an algorithm the brain uses to filter and process information.

Like a special pair of glasses, your beliefs only allow you to notice the things you expect to see – the things you believe are there.

(Beliefs are your brain’s time-savers. They help automate your perception so you don’t always have to ask the same questions over and over again – spinning your wheels. Beliefs help you move forward and make progress.)

As a trainer, you can take advantage of your authority position to help prime your listener to expect that they will learn what you are teaching very easily.

You do this by telling her that you believe she’s really sharp and will have no problem picking up what you’re teaching. Help her create the expectation that learning this process you are teaching is simple.

When she believes you, her brain will have set up an expectation (algorithm) to see all the ways in which what she is learning is actually easy.

You might agree that it is difficult to see the ways in which something is easy when you believe it’s hard.

You want your listener to believe she can learn quickly and effectively from you. Prime her for this.


Connectors link what you are teaching with something your listener already knows.

The best way to make this connection is to use a metaphor. The metaphor helps your listener connect the concept they are learning with a concept they have already learned.

This process links their new learning, currently in short-term memory, with a similar concept already existing in their long-term memory. It makes what you are teaching more immediately accessible and easier to recall.


Cheerleaders at sporting events offer cheers to elevate the audience’s spirit and get them more excited. It adds energy to the game.

For you, cheer-leading is made up of the words of affirmation and encouragement you give your trainee to help elevate their mood and keep their brain in an optimal learning state.

Encouragement makes learning more enjoyable. When you make a person feel good about what they are learning, they’ll be more enthusiastic to learn more.

From a neuroscience perspective, when you smile, compliment, and encourage someone, their brain triggers the release of serotonin – the ‘feel good’ hormone. Serotonin has been shown in studies to increase the thickness of the myelin sheath covering a neuron (like improving the plastic covering on an electrical wire) which helps strengthen information transmissions for better learning and memory recall.


In summary, here are the steps to help you make yourself understood:

1) Begin at the Mountaintop: Start with a very general overview of the concept you are looking to convey. Share the big picture.

2) Prime your listener’s mindset by making sure they are in a good emotional state and that they expect to easily understand your subject.

3) Help make it easy to learn and remember by using metaphors and analogies to link what they are learning with what they already know.

4) Cheer them on. Use phrases like, “That’s right”, “You got it”, “Good job”, and the like to encourage them and strengthen their learning and memory by keeping them feeling good.

Now give that a shot.


© 2014 Trent Janisch –



For more in depth information on better communication, you may like the Amazon #1 Bestselling book 3 Steps to Better Relationships. You can change your life for the price of a latte!


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