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Leadership Thought #265 – Don’t Get Lost In Your Words

December 16, 2011

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As a verbal person, I don’t have issues with talking and producing a barrage of words.  However, I do find myself rambling on at times and taking the long way around before getting to my point or connecting the dots.  I do my best to remember some advice I received from a mentor many years ago that when communicating with others in a professional setting “less is more.”   These days people have short attention spans.  Most of us are bombarded with communication all day long.  It is hard to keep everything straight and know when to pay attention. Sometimes it feels easier just block out whatever doesn’t resonate quickly.

Talented politicians and leaders realize this and have clear and consistent talking points.  They don’t get lost in their words or stray off their message.  Sadly, talent does not always correlate with being right or thoughtful about an issue.  I have seen many people with the better intellectual or practical solution lose out to others who are clearer in their communication and better at relating to their audience.  Connecting with another person is a two-way street; it isn’t a monologue.  You need to be able to read body language and appreciate when the other person’s interest starts to wane.  People make decisions in split seconds including whether they are going to truly listen to you or just tune you out.

When individuals are feeling overwhelmed or confused, they want simplicity.  The more words you use, the harder this becomes.  It is not about proving how smart you are on a given topic; it’s about ensuring that what you are communicating is registering.  I’ve seen quite a few speakers lose track of their point when they get too verbose or abstract.  They then stumble trying to get back on track.  Not everything needs simplification to appeal to the lowest common denominator. However, if you want something to resonate, you must balance being extemporaneous with being clear and focused with your communication.  Do your best not to get lost in your own words.