I love to play word games. In my spare time–or rather, wedged between my various activities–I usually have several running at once. I juggle different games and opponents, claiming that the mental gymnastics will stave off some form of dementia later in life.

Recently I tackled an online version of Family Feud, which is less about manipulating words and all about figuring out popular responses to seemingly benign questions. It occurred to me today that this game, designed purely for entertainment, offers some classic lessons in communication.

Know your audience. Speak the language. Perception is reality.

Although there are “right” answers to every question, those answers are not always those that are technically correct. The game is based on a random survey of 100 people, and getting the “right” answer means figuring out how the surveyed audience responded. To win the game, I have to guess what other people said–not answer the question correctly. Imagine how much I improved my scores when I realized this tidbit.

Sometimes that’s the way life works. The “right” answer doesn’t come from a textbook or an encyclopedia or the internet. It’s what works for the audience.

The caveat: if what works for the audience really isn’t the right answer and I have a better solution, knowing how the audience feels tells me the hurdles or perceptions I have to overcome in order to make a convincing argument.

Either way, knowing my audience and speaking the language give me an advantage.

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