It’s too complicated

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By Tony Samson

CERTAIN topics are just too hard to “laymanize.” This is a buzzword current nowadays. It means presenting a concept in words and phrases that can be grasped by the man on the street. Such subjects are, by definition, complex and presume prior familiarity and knowledge, sometimes requiring their own special vocabulary.

This vocabulary is called, “Jargon.” It is a set of words, acronyms, and phrases which are routinely used by certain professions or practitioners of arcane arts. A word may even appear to be recognizable but has a totally different meaning when used as jargon. For example, “put and call options” in the area of finance refer to a right to sell or buy a stock or asset at a pre-agreed strike price at a future date. If “puts and calls” are used in intimate relationships, even by bankers, they acquire a different connotation. Okay, you can see the possible miscommunication here. (Babe, where do I put it? Do you need to call me for that?)

Even in social situations, difficulty to explain can crop up. It may not have anything to do with quantum mechanics or cryptocurrency, which cannot be explained in three sentences. Sometimes, it’s just the bother of getting into details. Relationships involving same sex or even opposite ones, featuring more than five otherwise unrelated individuals living under one roof temporarily require no explanations, just a shrug: it’s too complicated.

The challenge when selling an intricate product (collateralized debt obligation and bit coins) or service (dog shampoo) is explaining how the product benefits you. The usual come-on is just to talk about other people just as stupid as you who are availing of the service — he has all his dogs shampooed here. Wait, do you also do people?

Now, what about a complicated change in the political structure that affects the whole country which nobody seems to understand, much less sees a need for? (If it ain’t broke, hurl it against the wall so it breaks into little pieces.)

The challenge then for the designated communicator for the complex structure and transition mechanism being proposed and possibly voted on is how to laymanize this. Add to this hurdle, all the previous failed attempts (maybe five in all) to overhaul the system and change the form of government. One previous proposal was the parliamentary system where the chief executive was elected by the party with the most seats in the parliament. Of course, the new structure allowed the present chief to run again for a different title.

Faced with the daunting task of bringing airy concepts down to earth, what is a communicator to do but fall back on what she knows best? Can the communicators learn from the past on why previous concepts failed to persuade or even connect? Okay, a song and dance on the parliamentary system just wouldn’t have worked — i-par, par mo; i-lia-lia mo? Parliamento. Nah. There was no social media to spread that for some lambasting. Anyway, what body parts are those?

The simple rule in communications states, “If you can’t explain it in three sentences, you can’t sell it.” And maybe you don’t really understand it yourself anyway. So, how can you persuade anyone, even if you are armed with answers to FAQ?

You need to give credit to innovation in the field of persuasion. Until now, it was presumed that you required a power point presentation, interviews in talk shows with articulate advocates (that is still a work in progress), a road show with prospective candidates for national positions in tow, or even a TV commercial with sunrise and carabaos pulling the plow. Why not use a song and dance routine as a low-cost alternative to get the topic into the daily conversation of barbers and wine connoisseurs?

As to the charges of vulgarity, from the Latin word “vulgus” or crowd, somebody important found the dance number cool. (You are asking me about vulgarity?) While the song and dance did get the topic to trend in social media, it’s not certain which side of the debate it truly helped. So please don’t be too hard on her. She should keep her job. Why? It’s too complicated.


A.R. Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda