Have you ever read an important document, only to have to do so again because the content was so dull? Sometimes, if a piece of writing doesn’t grab your attention, you may have to reread it a few times before the information finally sinks in.
When it comes to communicating with clients, no matter how important your message is, if it isn’t engaging then it can easily go in one ear and straight out the other. Thankfully, there are a few ways to avoid this happening.
To find out what they are, let’s step back in time to the 9th century to find out what a Saxon monk can teach you about communicating effectively.
The Anglo-Saxons were hugely influential in the conversion of Europe to Christianity
When you think about the Anglo-Saxons, your mind probably jumps to the big battles, such as Alfred the Great’s famous clash with the Vikings at Edington. Of course, while this is exciting stuff, they did much more than just spend their time fighting raiders.
One thing you may not have been taught at school was just how important the Saxons were for bringing large parts of Europe into the Christian fold.
Their missionaries travelled far and wide and were hugely influential in spreading the gospel across the continent. It isn’t a coincidence that the patron saint of Germany, St. Boniface, was an Englishman born in Devon!
When they were preaching, one of the biggest problems they faced was that many of the basic tenets of Christianity seemed very strange to the peoples they encountered.
The Bible may preach love and mercy, but the pagan gods were rarely so friendly. Many demanded blood – or even human – sacrifices and so their followers were often puzzled by the Christian God who told them to turn the other cheek.
Since it was obvious that their early attempts to spread the gospel had little effect, the Saxons opted for a different strategy to overcome this language barrier.
The missionaries retold the story of Christ in a way that the pagans would understand
To appeal to their potential converts, the missionaries had to tailor their message in such a way that their audience could easily understand it.
To do this, they wrote the life of Christ in the style of a Norse epic, a longform poem that tells the story of legendary people and their adventures. A famous example of this writing style would be the tale of Beowulf and his battle with the monster, Grendel.
This document, called the Heliand (meaning “Saviour”), is a fascinating interpretation of the Bible through the lens of Germanic paganism.
One of the biggest benefits to framing it in this way was that many characters from other epics also claimed descendance from the pagan gods, such as Odin or Thor. This meant that the idea of Christ, as the son of God and living embodiment of a deity, was much easier to understand.
Since the pagans would have respected strength, the language used to describe the adult Christ is recognisably martial in tone. He is referred to as a “drothin”, a powerful warlord, and instead of disciples he has “earls”.
These terms obviously evoke the feudal social hierarchy that the audience lived within. The benefits of converting to Christianity are also framed in this same way.
In the pagan society, warriors would pledge their allegiance to a chieftain in exchange for loot and treasure, but Jesus offers something much more valuable. We can see this in the description of the tax-collector, Matthew the Apostle:
“Christ picked at a marketplace a king’s young vassal, a wise-minded man: Matthew was his name. There he took tithes and tolls for his lord; loyal he was to his task and noble his looks and his bearing. But he left them all – gold and silver and gifts most dear – and became our Lord’s man.
“The king’s servant chose Christ for his Lord, a more generous gift-giver than ever his master had been in this world. For he received a worthier thing, a longer lasting treasure.”
By speaking to their audience in a way they would understand, the Saxon missionaries made their message much more effective and impactful.
Good communication is an important skill when managing your business
As I touched on in a previous blog about managing your business, good communication is essential for building and maintaining your relationship with clients. That’s why, if you want to improve at this important skill, here are three tips that the Saxon missionaries can teach us:
Know your audience
If you want to be able to tailor your message in the most effective way, it’s important to know your audience. This can help you to strike the right chord when talking to them and prevent miscommunication.
Frame your message in an engaging way
If you want to message to be well-received by your audience, it can help to make it as relevant to the reader as possible. For example, linking it to an event in the news can be a good foot-in-the-door to your adjacent topic.
Use simple language
The final tip that this story can teach us is that it’s important to use simple language if you can. While the occasional piece of jargon may be necessary, explaining concepts in a simple and understandable way can make your message much more engaging for a reader.
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