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Article Date: 10/1/2013

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Keep It Simple

What good is using “fancy language” if no one understands what you are saying?

BY SCOT MORRIS, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

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I remember the fall I came home from my first year of optometry school. Growing up on a large farm in Illinois meant a trip home in the fall was not a vacation. It was harvest season. More important, what I remember is one of the last conversations I ever had with my grandfather, a lifelong farmer.

We were standing by one of the grain trucks, waiting for the combine to dump the corn, and I remember he asked me what I learned at “doctor school.” Of course, I went on to explain, in verbose terms, about the effects of glaucoma on the electrophysiology of the optic nerve.

A simple lesson

I was about halfway through my optometry school dissertation when my grandfather said, “Stop. Let me teach you something more important than all that. Keep it simple, Scot. It doesn’t matter how much fancy language you use if no one understands it.”

Voila. Some of the most important words ever spoken in my professional career were conveyed to me with unmistaken simplicity by someone who had no more than an intermediate school education. To this day I vividly remember that conversation, and it still impacts me in almost every form of communication, whether it is from the podium, with the pen or with a patient.

The simple truth

I could tell you that the average newspaper in the United States is written at a third-grade reading level for a reason. I could tell you the reason people watched Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? is that it made them feel good if they beat the poor fifth graders. I could tell you that the average reality TV show caters to an audience who has less than a high school education. I could tell you what level most professional journals are written for — but I won’t.

I could tell you that videos are worth a thousand words and that most of the signage in your office is too complicated.

I could tell you that videos are worth a thousand words and that most of the signage you have in your office is too complicated. I could tell you that the inability of the owner or manager to effectively communicate is the primary reason for most staff problems. I could tell you that the reason most treatments fail is that the provider doesn’t explain the treatment and potential adverse effects in a way that the patient comprehends.

A simple art

I could go on for another hour about how much communication simplicity means to the understanding of everything, but then that wouldn’t be simple. So I will be brief.

This month, OM focuses on patient education and maybe even more important, the simple art of communication. Think about this every time you talk to a patient, a staff member, a person in public, etc. If they can’t understand what you say — then what you say doesn’t really matter. So:

Keep it simple. OM



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: October 2013, page(s): 2

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