Communicators Could Learn a Thing or 8 from Kids

We've seen a recent wave of advertising using children to entice adults to make purchases and rethink grown up decisions. The wise-cracking E*TRADE baby grabbed our attention with straight talk about financial decisions and the totally sensible children of MasterCard's "just one more day" commercials have appealed to adults common sense - and sensitivity - convincing us that more vacation could be beneficial for our well-being and our families.

Children create that "aha" moment, reminding us that many will assuredly prefer things that are fast over those that are slow and better instead of just good enough.

Here are some communication tips that adults can pick up from kids:


1. It's often obvious

  • In business we often get wrapped up in promoting our accomplishments, riding trends and launching major studies. However, when we're willing to be candid, less complex and more transparent like kids, answers may be more apparent. They may not always be pleasant or what we hoped for, but if we're honest with ourselves and colleagues we'll arrive at solid resolutions to our issues.

  • 2. Adults can make things too complicated

  • Yes, as adults we should think carefully about what goes into an action and its potential impact on others. But over-thinking does not always lead to a better result.
  • Kids tell us what they want us to know. Unlike many adults, they rarely need to share every detail. Their lesson for us: Get to the point. Tell me what is MOST important for me to know.

  • 3. We all compare our toys
  • Bigger is better (AT&T commercial below). Except when faster is better. Or my favorite color is better. Children, especially young kids, want the best choice/option that's available to them NOW and they don't hesitate to let us know.
  • Adults may be compelled in the moment, but it's important to remember that we have choices; all we need to do is go out and explore them. Kids never forget all the options. You put a glass of milk in front of them, they'll ask if that chocolate milk from last week is still available. Throw them a ball - they'll look for a basket. The point is that kids are always seeking to do, have and ask for more. As adults, there's nothing wrong with asking those around us to consider other options and push the boundaries. Oftentimes thinking out loud together makes everyone better at what they do!

  • 4. Some rules are there just because they exist and not because they bring the optimal result

  • Leaving vacation days on the table is crazy. "One more day!" chant the kids in the MasterCard commercial (below). We adults have logical excuses that tie to our obligations and sense of duty. Sometimes we need to challenge pointless rules and, like kids, speak up for what makes sense.

  • 5. If you want to know something, just ask

  • Toddlers are known for endless WHY - no hunting or dodging the purity of curiosity. Too often adults accept things at face value when they should be asking "why" to challenge the status quo or probe for more information.

  • 6. If you want to have something, just ask

  • Young kids don't stand on ceremony, they just blurt out "I want that" or "Can I have that?" There are times where getting to the point gets a quicker and better result. We all know the saying "if you don't ask, you don't get." People can't read minds. If you want something, don't wait for others to offer; let your preference, desire or need be known.

  • 7. Tell 'em how you really feel
  • As we get older we develop filters (known as manners!) that keep us from communicating how we truly feel. Children aren't inhibited by that. They cry when something makes them sad and giggle when things makes them happy. Telling people how you really feel can cut through a lot of confusion and bring you to the heart of a conversation, and perhaps a resolution, much more quickly than by skirting around your feelings.

  • 8. Point it Out

  • Kids have no problem grabbing your hand and dragging you to what they want or pointing and shouting at the top of their lungs. They do everything they can to get your attention and make sure that what they want is crystal clear.
  • Adults can take a hint. Sometimes you need more than words to make sure your message is crystal clear. Maybe next time you go to a meeting, you can reinforce your point by presenting a simple flow chart, graph or illustration to clarify what you're trying to say, even if it's not required.
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    Adult Brand Messaging from the Mouths of Kids

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