Sometimes less is more

People today seem to be more sensitive to time. Sometimes it’s because they do not manage time well and sometimes it’s because they are just crazy busy. Yet many people continue to write long emails and take one hour meetings when 20 or 30 minutes would do. The result is people don’t hear and act upon the message.

Not being brief can have additional consequences. When we are in a selling conversation and we take a long rambling way to answer the question; our audience can wonder why we were not better prepared or worse they can wonder if the seller is making up the reply as they go along. And in meetings people can judge us as not well prepared or perhaps even trying to wing it.

I remember one presentation with a colleague. I had facilitated an introduction so that he could pitch his services. And because his style was to think out loud the potential customer saw this as if he was making it up on the fly. My colleague had not prepared he was going to wing it. Jim did not get the chance to move forward with the opportunity.

The average person can speak comfortably at about 150 words per minute. We can actually listen to and process about 750. What that means is that there is space for a whole bunch of other words in that minute to come into our audiences mind. And those words (think thoughts) may not be serving our message.

So what can we do to help ourselves be “heard” and our listeners to act?

We can prepare. One reason people tend to ramble is because they are unprepared for the conversation and potential questions. So they just start answering. They literally are thinking out loud. While that may be good in a creative conversation; in a decision-making setting it may not be the most appropriate.

In Toastmasters we have a section called Table Topics, where participants are given 1 – 2 minutes to answer an impromptu question. The best replies have a few seconds of silence before they begin as the participant lays out the path their reply will take. Others just start down a path in their reply until all of a sudden they hit a dead-end. It can be helpful to take a pause to prepare your answer. As a listener we can give our communicator a hand here by allowing for the pause.

So here are two things you can do today so that you can be heard more effectively:

  1. Take the time to prepare for the conversation and or the encounter. (If I have not seen someone for a while I will often prepare a series of questions I want to get caught up on. (I may never pull the questions out but by preparing them I am ready for the conversation.
  2. Pause before you answer, and more than pause consider what you will say and how it will advance the purpose of the conversation.

Take Good care,




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