Synthesize and Simplify Your Way to Job and Relationship Success
Bill Cottringer

I will make two bold statements that I am confident will get 100% agreement. And that is always a good starting point to build upon to make things better at work or in relationships. These two agreeable statements are: (1) We are all getting overloaded with too much information, and (2) Communication between people could be a lot better. Yes, yes so let’s not waste words and move on.

If there is one skill that is needed in the workplace and in relationships today it is good communication. Good communication is simply the accurate exchange of information between people. But the question of our day in this Information Age—that has us all falling behind the curve in knowing the information we need to know to be successful in our jobs and relationships—Is this one: How do we synthesize and simplify the information overload that is burying us all by the second, to get to that magical place where we need to be to communicate best in speaking and writing? This place is the “simplicity just on the other side of complexity” that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes valued so much.

If you want to really succeed in today’s workplace and improve your relationships, here is how to do that: Learn how to synthesize and simplify the mountain of information overload that is burying us all by the second. A few years ago Howard Gardner wrote an interesting book, called “Five Minds for the Future.” He anticipated the crucial corporate need for employees to be able to get their minds around a very large amount of information and then to be able to reduce it down into a much smaller amount for easier consumption to apply. The same need applies to relationships.

If you want to learn this invaluable skill of finding the simplicity just on the other side of complexity, so you can communicate with better clarity and impact, here are three things you can do to get there:

1. Understand.

The first thing you can do is understand how big the problem is and how to best approach it for success. Here are just a few things to realize:

• Don’t even try to become a master synthesizer and simplifier unless you are sure you have the patience of Job, the tenacity of Atlas and the capacity of Shakespeare. Rely on someone else to do it for you, especially if you are the boss and have too many other more important things to worry about.

• Realize this that this is the toughest thing you will ever have to try and do to get the needed results. That is because it has never been really done very well yet! It will take extreme character, all the right values and virtues, top-shelf quality thinking, and enormous amounts of time and energy. Like growing old, learning good communication by synthesizing and simplifying, is not for sissies.

• Don’t assume what your “audience” knows or needs to know. Find out and give them just that and no more or less.

• Pick an average single target in your intended listening or reading audience to communicate to effectively and with maximum impact. That will likely spread to the whole audience. The same applies to the “middle” of one person.

2. Change.

You won’t succeed at improving your communication until you make some major changes. Here are a few ways to undo some bad habits keeping you from being a master communicator:

• Read as much as you can from a list of the best books and articles available each day for after-work time instead of watching TV or doing something social. Speed reading is indispensable for this task, given all the valuable information that is available on the Internet alone. Start by looking for good books about your job area or relationships on the Internet instead of shopping for bargains or going on Facebook to find out what is going on.

• Consider presenting only three points in anything you write or speak. The trick here is to not let anything overlap or it really isn’t an exclusive, stand-alone unique point and those are always more confusing. Three strong points are much better than 10 mediocre ones.

• Go for knowledge and wisdom over interesting information. Look for, study and collect important principles, parables and quotations that aptly simplify very complex ideas for wide application.

• Adopt a psychological model of time instead of the traditional mechanical one prevalent today. You need to create a lot more time to perfect this simplification skill in your synthesizing mind expansion. This way you use time to your benefit rather than being the dog that gets wagged by its own tail.

3. Practice.

Smart practice makes better. Try any of these suggestions:

• A couple of times a week, take a three page piece you once wrote and reduce it to one page, or a page into a paragraph (without losing essential points). Be brutal in replacing three bad sentences with one good one.

• Re-read the short Gettysburg address as inspiration. It is the very best example of excellent communication. And if you really want to get creative, translate this short piece into 100 times the words that would be needed today to get a better idea of the problem you are trying to resolve.

• Browse through the Dictionary and Thesaurus daily to learn new and unusual words. Sometimes there are single words that communicate much more than one idea or one sentence. Collect good, strong, and fast words for your vocabulary arsenal.

• In the simplification process with speaking and writing, be ruthless in not wasting words—especially your favorite pet phrases and points that others aren’t really interested in.

Now let’s apply all this all to discover why the young actress Jennifer Lawrence won the academy award for best female actress this year for her performance in “Silver Lining Playbook.” And if you didn’t see it at the theatre, it is now out on DVD for your convenience. Now your mind is probably busy thinking things like what you enjoyed about her in this movie and what objective or subjective criteria the Academy used to decide the award. Well, let me synthesize and simplify the variety of possible reasons into three real ones:

• The role she played was very difficult and certainly not easily replicated. You can’t direct yourself to have radical mood changes spontaneously without very hard work.

• She communicated something very important clearly and with high impact. This is the only way the world improves (I don’t want to spoil the movie in case you haven’t seen it by telling you what problem and solution she communicated so well).

• Her character performance was truly creative and unique which always signifies quality.

Understand, change and practice your way to becoming an expert communicator by learning the necessary synthesizing and simplifying skills that will improve your results at your workplace or in personal relationships too.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or