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The Mouthwash Principle: 1 Key to Making Messages Stick

Have you ever wondered why the important messages we’re trying to share aren’t sticking?

How do we make sure that we’re doing our best at communicating our most important and culture building ideas?

Peter Bregman has developed what he calls the Mouthwash Principle. The Mouthwash Principle goes like this:

“If you want to make an impact on people, to influence their behavior in some way, you have to keep sharing the message, coming at it from different angles and at different times long after you think you’re done. It’s critical to powerful leadership and communication.”

In other words, rinse and repeat.

Two of the most powerful communicating forces in our world today – politicians and advertisers – have figured this out. Politicians will go out and share the same message over and over, from city to city, thousands of times. Advertisers work diligently to find ways to frame their product into your life.

So, why is it different for us? According to Bergman, “There is a big difference between saying something and hearing it.” We have to make sure that our most important stuff is said until it’s heard.

We cast vision. Maybe we tell the story a time or two. We share our new idea with a handful of people, and then the world keeps moving, and we wonder why didn’t it stick? The reason? Repetition breeds results. We have to make sure we’re not only “pitching,” but we’re creating a creative, healthy, and clear runway for our ideas. It comes down to the power of expectation around an idea.

When we have important information to share, we have to use the Mouthwash Principle to get it across.

Repeat the important stuff. Tell it over and over and over again. We may feel like we’re beating these thoughts to a pulp, but if they’re going to thrive, they must be reinforced. Further, if these ideas matter so much to our organizations and us, they’re worth repeating. Repeating the same thing the same way can often build frustration…so find alternative creative ways to share the same message. Find ways to make examples of the idea. Identify alternative ways of saying the same thing and then, point it back. When a behavior or reinforcement of the idea happens, pause and celebrate that moment.

You might feel like you’re being excessive, but you’re really showing what matters most to you; you’re setting clear expectations for teams and the organization. Even if you start to hate hearing yourself repeat it, still do it because this might be the time it breaks through the clutter and sticks.

Have you been intentionally using Mouthwash principle to share ideas and messages inside your organizations?