During this season of extended family gatherings, you may find yourself in the middle of catching up with others’ lives.
With the long drought of restricted gatherings the past couple of years, you might be anxious to go into too much detail.
If you’re wondering whether you tend to overexplain, here’s a clue: Has anyone ever asked you to “land the plane?”
I remember making a presentation to a potential client several years ago. When I was finished, I felt satisfied that I had made the most important points. Then I learned I didn’t need to provide as much detail.
The client response invoked a twist on that popular line from “Jerry Maguire,” the 1990s hit film: “You had us at hello.”
With successful communications, the most important part is often listening. Yet, we often get caught up in the points we want to make — and only half listen to what the other person is saying.
Then there can be a tendency to say too much. I’ve had several examples of this pop up in my life recently:
- An extended family email
- A POA (Property Owners Association) group discussion
- My column
Intentions and attention
In today’s world, our attention spans are shorter. That’s because we have so many things competing for our attention in this 24/7 society.
While it can be important to put context (and texture) into a conversation, too many details can drive the listener to start scrolling through his or her smartphone.
The extended family email I composed recently had way too much information in it. My first instinct was to send it right away, although I decided to sleep on it. And I’m glad I did.
When I stopped to examine my intentions, I discovered some interesting things. I wanted to convey as much information as possible to spur others into action. And to justify a sense of urgency. After all, my bullet points were all accurate!
Then I stopped to examine whether I was trying to justify/control something else — the actions of others in the equation. Yikes! That was definitely not my intention. So, I didn’t send the email.
Less is more
Any of you who have ever been involved with a Property Owners Association are probably familiar with the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Sitting on the boards of such organizations come with their unique sets of circumstances. A good friend of mine is the president of one of these associations, and it’s a major source of stress.
Satisfying the collective needs of a number of homeowners under a common umbrella tends to bring out the worst in people at times. The situation that came across this week’s radar dealt with a simple request. Yet there was a tendency to overexplain the situation, due to what board members felt would come next.
This reminded me of two principles from one of my favorite books, “The Four Agreements:”
- Don’t take things personally
- Don’t make assumptions
When I can remind myself of these two concepts during my “living laboratory of life,” I experience much more peace.
Back to the POA. When the board members rewound the scenario, they came up with a more streamlined approach of dealing with the request. In this case, “less was more.”
And they’ll deal with whatever comes next if – and when – it comes. As my good friend Sheila says, “Don’t borrow trouble.”
I find it’s a lot easier to write longer columns than shorter ones. I probably spend as much time editing as I do writing. And I’m always grateful for my editors at the various publications.
That’s because I’m so anxious to include every piece of pertinent research or real-life examples to relate to readers. The same holds true for speaking engagements. While some speakers agonize over stretching their content to cover a certain period, I’m usually busy trimming my down.
Cue the song “Tighten Up,” by Archie Bell and the Drells! There are so many cases in which communicating in a tight and crisp fashion speaks volumes.
You probably run across this in your life as well. I always remind myself that it’s better to provide several good takeaway nuggets, rather than an encyclopedic summary.
As you gather with your loved ones this holiday season, you may want to keep this in mind. And remember that a critical element in all communications is listening.
Bed and breakfast wisdom
My husband John and I spent a memorable anniversary in Sedona, Arizona one year, and I’ll never forget the wise words of the 80-year-old proprietress at our bed-and-breakfast inn. When I had launched into a long description about something that had occurred, she quietly said, “Dear, there’s never a need to explain or complain.”
That line made an impression on me – and has stuck with me ever since. If you find yourself over explaining, stop to consider more effective ways to land the plane.
Get them at hello.