Be a five year old again. I dare you.

five year old
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This was one of a few key questions I asked a group of CEOs and senior directors I worked with recently as we focused on communicating with influence.

This question, as basic as it sounds, really helps people boil down what’s actually going on and separate it from the “stuff”. It’s one of the secrets of great communication – keeping things simple. Here’s the question: “If I was only five years old and you had to explain this to me, what’s going on?

It took quite a bit of head-scratching (and a few laughs too) to translate some of the expressions below into a five year old’s language.

Confusion and unease (not to mention boredom) is often the main result of rambling on using a combination of too much detail and corporate “gobbledygook”. Listeners/readers tune out, switch off and often miss vital bits of information as it’s wrapped up in “blah” language – which actually confuses the person communicating it too!

We worked with the KISS principle – Keep It Simple and Straightforward. Leonardo de Vinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and it’s true. Anyone you think of as a great speaker or inspiring leader communicates in simple, clear and accessible language.

Encouraging clients to use clearer and more “down-to-earth” language as part of their day-to-day communication is just as important. I often ask this question to get clients to the nub of what’s going on. You build it up from there but it gets you to the core of the message. You don’t have to have a five year old in your life to use as a reference, remember you were a five year old yourself!

We worked on the following expressions together and came up with a variety of translations for a five year old to understand:

  • Key Performance Indicators (ways of being able to tell how you’re getting on)
  • Optimisation (making the best of things)
  • Strategic implementation (doing things we’ve said we will do in our plan)
  • Blue-sky thinking (having big, different ideas)

The group all agreed that corporate “lingo” is necessary at times – legal language, corporate messages that are already being used – but to use the “if I were five, what’s going on?” or “if I were five, what are we talking about?” with your colleagues, team – even clients, is really powerful. Trust me.

I asked this question to a recently-promoted Director when she was gradually going cross-eyed trying to explain the twists and turns in a story about her team. Along the lines of “the KPIs are all being missed because no-one’s interacting in a strategic way and we’re out of alignment because there’s unrest amongst the troops”. Crikey. “Excuse me, if I were five years old, what’s going on?” I actually said that.

After looking at me with a combination of shock and bemusement, she sat for a while to be able to boil this down. I said “I don’t understand KPIs, strategy, corporate stuff ‘cos I’m only five”.

After quite a lot of head-scratching she told me “some naughty people are playing some nasty games ‘cos they think we’re going to take their toys away”. NOW you’re talking. Now we can brainstorm ideas together.

  • Try this question
  • Try it on yourself if no-one else and, I dare you…
  • Try it with your colleagues/team/clients

You’ll help yourself and others to get to the core of what’s going on, and you can start to understand together from the same place.

If you need any more encouragement, try some from Albert Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

I’d love to hear what you think. You can leave me a comment or a note here.Here’s an immediate and practical Gift of you!  A complimentary copy of “Do You Have Trouble Saying NO?”

Let me walk you through the mindsets, strategies and exact words and phrases to use to ensure you keep stronger, more assertive boundaries for yourself and your time without upsetting yourself, or the other person.  Also, you’ll receive my twice-monthly eZine filled with more tips, tools, ideas and news.

About the author

Kay White is our Show Up & Sparkle blogger. Known as the Savvy & Influential Communication Expert for Ambitious Women in Business, Kay shows professional women how to attract promotion, recognition and rewards at work without feeling they have to ’sell their soul. Kay shows her clients, who are corporate career women at all different stages of their careers, how to naturally attract more income and opportunity all while being true to themselves. Combining strategic moves with influencing skills plus compelling and assertive language and powerful mindsets, Kay draws on her own 20+ years corporate career in the very male-dominated world of London insurance broking. She started at 18 as a Secretary and left as a Director to start her own business. Hosting an annual 3-day Event for corporate women “Show Up; Sparkle & Be Heard LIVE” Kay encourages and shows women how to be the best, most valuable version of themselves. Kay is author of the Number 1 Best-Seller “The A to Z of Being Understood” and you can connect and find out more from Kay at :

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