Effective communication is about matching the message with the needs of the audience. It is highly context specific. The way a person speaks in one setting may be appropriate for that place, but it may not be appropriate for another place where they are expected to communicate. Being context-appropriate and understanding the setting in which speech takes place is an important skill to learn for all people, but it is especially important for people who spend much of their time in the academic world and may fail to translate their communication to a more informal setting.
The clip I am describing comes from Good Will Hunting. It shows two friends, who are native to Boston, talking to a woman in a bar. They encounter another group of men, who are quick to show off their education and try to put the native Bostonians down. The young academic men try to speak formally to show off their education, while the native Bostonians, led by “Will,” speak in local Boston colloquialisms.
In this scene, one sees how communication must be modified to fit the setting, and how it is sometimes difficult for people who spend time in academic environments to modify their behavior. The young men from Harvard are looking to show off their education, putting down Will. Will, on the other hand, is familiar with the bar and the neighborhood, and though he has a thick accent, he is every bit as smart as the young men from Harvard. The goal for each of the groups was to get the number of a girl. Will ended up with the number, and his “How do you like them apples?” colloquialism was a way of showing how effective communication does not always come in formal tones.
Ultimately the ability to match the message to the audience is critical to good communication. Good communication is not just about being smart. It is about multiple intelligences and understanding what is demanded in any given situation.