Talk less to convey more
First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. - Epictetus
A development goal of mine is to communicate more concisely - particularly in work context.
Communication lacking concision is difficult to understand, wastes time, and conveys a lack of competence.
There are 3 habits that keep most people from being concise:
Overexplaining: You repeat yourself, use tautological descriptions, summarize too often
Underpreparing: Before talking to someone, you didn’t think about the main 1-3 messages to convey
Missing the point: Before talking to someone, you didn’t make sure to understand the context, such as the question asked
There is a remedy for each of these 3 habits. You just need to focus on applying them consistently.
How to not overexplain
When we present something or answer a question, we tend to repeat ourselves, summarize our message multiple times, communicate bottom-up instead of top-down, and use tautological descriptions (using too many adjectives not adding additional information → the “additional” was a tautological description in this phrase).
To not overexplain, I remind myself to (not) do 3 actions:
Instead of repeating or summarizing what I said, I ask the questions “does that make sense?”, “any questions?”, or “was that clear”? I ask these questions when I would otherwise repeat/summarize.
Instead of explanations or arguments, I start with the “so-what” (top-down communication).
I leave out as many adjectives I can. Adjectives usually do not add information, e.g., “avoid a potential conflict”, and they are not concrete. Rather use concrete examples if you want to add more information, e.g. “I am motivated to learn about web3” → “I read 2 books, 7 articles, and talk with 3 new people every week to learn about web3”.
How to not underprepare
Before I communicate anything, I ask myself what message I want to deliver and why I actually want to say it. To get people to listen, we have to make our message clear and know its purpose.
Before I am asked a question, I force myself to not immediately answer but think about what is the answer that (A) delivers the “so what” and (B) matters to me. I don’t answer just to give an answer. Communication is not like a hot potato I have to throw back ASAP. I take my time and thereby saving the time of the other person as I communicate clearly and purposely. Just tell the other person, “give me 1 second”, “I have to quickly think”, or “I will give you the answer in a second, let me quickly think”.
Before I give a presentation or enter a meeting, I always take 3-5 minutes to write down (A) what’s the goal of the meeting and next steps, (B) what are the 3 messages I want to deliver, (C) what should be the rough agenda?
How to not miss the point
Before I participate in a conversation or meeting, I ensure that I understand its content and context. Too many people sit in meetings where they don’t understand what the others are talking about. And too often in conversations, we give an answer without understanding the question.
Whenever a question or the context of a conversation is not clear to me, I either paraphrase the question or what has been recently said or summarize my understanding. I say phrases such as “I understood that…, is that right?”, “What you said is…, is that right?”, “Let me check my understanding: You said…, right?”.
Thereby, you not only avoid missing the point but also help others to ensure their understanding.
What are your current development goals? And what do you do to enhance your communication? Would be curious to hear about your experience.
All the best to you and yours,