Good teachers know that the fundamental law of learning is repetition. Someone once told me that people have to hear something sixteen times before they really believe it. That seems extreme, yet I do know that repetition is essential in communication if you want people to understand and buy into what you’re saying. William H. Rastetter, who taught at MIT and Harvard before becoming CEO of IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corporation, asserts, “The first time you say something, it’s heard. The second time, it’s recognized, and the third time, it’s learned.” That’s much more optimistic, but it still emphasizes the value of repetition.
If you want to be an effective communicator, you have to be willing to keep emphasizing a point. That’s also true if you want to be an effective leader. My friend and founding pastor of Willow Creek church, Bill Hybels, says, “Vision leaks!” By that, he means that even if people do buy into a vision, they can eventually lose their passion and enthusiasm for it. They can even lose sight of the vision altogether. Because that is true, leaders must continually repeat the values and vision of their organization so that employees (or volunteers in churches and other nonprofits) will know those values and visions, think in terms of them, and live them.
“The first time you say something, it’s heard. The second time, it’s recognized, and the third time, it’s learned.”
—WILLIAM H. RASTETTER
Articulating a theme and repeating it often can be very challenging. At the most elementary level, you can follow the advice of instructors at the Dale Carnegie School, who tell classes, “Tell the audience what you are going to say. Say it. Then tell them what you’ve said.” A more sophisticated approach is taken by someone like Andy Stanley, the leader of North Point Community Church, a wonderful communicator, and a good friend. He often crafts a message based on a single point—one big idea. And then everything he communicates informs, illustrates, or illuminates that main point. It’s a very creative and effective way of making sure he drives his point home, and his audience really connects with the message.
Maxwell, J. C. (2010). Everyone communicates, few connect: what the most effective people do differently. Nashville: Thomas Nelson