The gist: Thom Hartmann — talk radio host and communications expert — likens communication to other familiar tools. Like scalpels or screwdrivers, our words are tools that help us to be effective in our work. This Flashcard pulls together three lessons from Hartmann’s recent book, Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America’s Original Vision (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).

Trigger the Senses

Effective communicators connect to a range of individual ways of experiencing the world — visual, auditory, sensory: “I see what you mean.” “We can all feel good about this decision.” “That sounds sensible to me.”

Anchor Messages To Core Values

To “anchor” is to use key words — repeatedly and consistently — that define what you stand for. Effective anchors are value words (responsibility, fairness, opportunity) that help audiences identify the core principles that they share with you.

Paint Vivid Pictures of Desired Outcomes (and Steps to Get There)

What does your desired policy outcome look like? Describe it in concrete terms. Then, walk your audiences into that future. People are more likely to act when they’ve already visualized an outcome and imagined themselves working to make it happen.

Flashcard in Action:

Ronald ReaganPresident Ronald Reagan — the “great communicator” — masterfully triggered multiple senses, consistently used values anchors, and painted a picture of a better future in his speeches. Here’s an excerpt from his State of the Union address in 1985 with these tactics called out:

We’re here to speak [multiple senses] for millions in our inner cities who long for real jobs, safe neighborhoods, and schools that truly teach [picture of the future]. We’re here to speak [multiple senses] for the American farmer, the entrepreneur, and every worker in industries fighting to modernize and compete [picture of the future]. And, yes, we’re here to stand [multiple senses], and proudly so, for all who struggle to break free from totalitarianism, for all who know in their hearts [multiple senses] that freedom is the one true path [multiple senses] to peace and human happiness [values anchor(s)].

Proverbs tell [multiple senses] us, without a vision [multiple senses] the people perish. When asked [multiple senses] what great principle holds [multiple senses] our Union together, Abraham Lincoln said: “Something in [the] Declaration giving liberty [values anchor(s)], not alone to the people of this country, but hope [values anchor(s)] to the world for all future time.”

We honor the giants of our history not by going back but forward to the dreams their vision foresaw [picture of the future / multiple senses]. My fellow citizens, this nation is poised for greatness [values anchor(s)]. The time has come to proceed [multiple senses] toward a great new challenge — a second American Revolution of hope and opportunity [values anchor(s)]; a revolution carrying [multiple senses] us to new heights of progress by pushing back frontiers of knowledge and space [picture of the future]; a revolution of spirit that taps the soul [multiple senses] of America, enabling us to summon greater strength [multiple senses] than we’ve ever known; and a revolution that carries beyond our shores the golden promise of human freedom in a world of peace [values anchor(s)].

We stand on the threshold [multiple senses] of a great ability to produce more, do more, be more. Our economy is not getting older and weaker; it’s getting younger and stronger [picture of the future. It doesn’t need rest and supervision [multiple senses]; it needs new challenge, greater freedom [values anchor(s)]. And that word “freedom[values anchor(s)] is the key to the second American revolution that we need to bring about.

Let us resolve [multiple senses] that we will stop spreading dependency and start spreading opportunity [values anchor(s)]; that we will stop spreading bondage and start spreading freedom [values anchor(s)].

Now, there’s another great heritage to speak [multiple senses] of this evening. Of all the changes that have swept [multiple senses] America the past four years, none brings greater promise than our rediscovery of the values of faith, freedom, family, work, and neighborhood [values anchor(s)].

About Thom Hartmann

Thom HartmannThom Hartmann is broadcast on over fifty stations nationwide including Chicago, Washington, DC, Santa Barbara, Minneapolis, and on XM and Sirius Satellite radio. He is also a four-time Project Censored-award-winning and New York Times best-selling author.

Hartmann, who started in radio in 1968, is also is an internationally known speaker on culture and communications, an author, and an innovator in the fields of psychiatry, ecology, and economics. The co-founder (with his wife, Louise) of The New England Salem Children’s Village (1978) and The Hunter School (1997), he has led national innovations in the areas of residential treatment for abused children and private/public education for learning-disabled children.