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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Are you really an expert if you can’t communicate well?

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

typing on keyboard

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

We can apply that question to the importance of effective communication. Specifically, to illustrate experts attempting to share what they know. Reword as follows: If knowledgeable, well-trained professionals are unable to successfully communicate their expertise to others, do they even have a message? Will they even be recognized as “experts”? Will other messages drown them out?

Expert knowledge requires expert communication

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are THE nutrition experts, well-trained in the science of food and nutrition. They possess expertise that can change lives. However, to make an impact requires more than subject-matter knowledge. It requires knowledge and skills in communicating that knowledge to others.

Although well-trained in food and nutrition, most RDNs have minimal training in communicating their expertise. Consumers and patients need the guidance of RDNs, but if their messages are never heard, or they are misunderstood or ignored, how can they make an impact?

RDNs are THE credentialed nutrition professionals, but they are not the only ones in the marketplace espousing to know about nutrition. Non-credentialed influencers make unfounded claims, promote fads and gimmicks, and spread fear, half-truths, and downright falsehoods – messages that compete for the attention of the public RDNs seek to protect and teach. These potentially dangerous messages are often well communicated and therefore believed and followed.

It’s time for RDNs to become not only nutrition experts but also become experts at communicating effectively. Without communication excellence, the nutrition expert does not make a sound in the forest.

By combining communication expertise with nutrition expertise, RDNs can have the impact they desire. Their messages will be heard, understood, and put into practice. With the necessary knowledge and skills, RDNs can become competent and confident communicators that make a difference for all types of audiences.

A resource was created for building communication expertise

Recognizing the need for a resource to provide this knowledge and skill base, educators and practitioners alike reached out to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to fill this need. The Academy sought to create a comprehensive guide covering nutrition communication.

For more than 3 years the Academy led a team of 57 authors in writing 42 chapters and 8 section openers covering everything from communication theory to writing for social media, creating videos and food demonstrations, assessing an audience, responding to questions, enhancing audience engagement, cultural competency, professional ethics, and more.

The resulting text, Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, is for both future and current nutrition professionals. Educators can order a prepublication preview and teaching resources. Students can connect via social media.

As the first section of the book is titled, communication forms the foundation of professional practice. Without good communication skills, a message does not reach its intended audience. It is like a tree falling in a forest that no one hears. It will not make a difference. Professionals that have the greatest impact are experts in subject matter and communication.

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” ~ Sydney J. Harris

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