You’re at a gathering; drink in hand; the conversation flowing…someone cracks a joke, and in the laughter that follows you think of a great retort and give it both barrels. The trouble is, not everyone hears it, so you repeat it again to the person next to you but by then the moment has gone.
The Germans have a word for it – witzbeharrsamkeit – which roughly translates as shamelessly repeating a joke until everyone present hears it.
Given it’s General Election day today, it feels as if there has been loads of ‘witzbeharrsamkeit’ going around – although, admittedly, it’s not generally jokes that have been endlessly repeated over the last month but manifesto pledges, or party sound bites.
Politicians often talk about ‘cut through’ – those messages that really resonate with the electorate and stick in the mind. The trouble is, and this is the same challenge whether you’re trying to be the Honourable Member for Croydon South or communicating a business restructure to 10,000 employees, simply sending out some messages is not the same thing as effectively communicating.
And if you insist on trying to repeat a message that has failed to engage its audience, it won’t necessarily make a communication any more effective, in fact, it could become as embarrassing as our well travelled joke.