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Is this why it’s so darn hard to be concise?

30th August, 2023

Is this why it’s so darn hard to be concise?

Picture this:

 

You have to give an update to a senior stakeholder. They have zero tolerance for waffle, so you try to keep it short. Yet it’s still clocking in at several hundred words – argh! Try as you might, you just can’t cut it back any more and it’s giving Lord of the Rings-length vibes.

 

So why is it just so darn hard to be concise?

 

I wrote about this last week, but it deserves a deeper dive.

 

You see, it’s one of the things I get asked about most in masterclasses: ‘How do I know what to leave in and what to take out? How do I know what’s really important?’

 

And here’s what I’ve learnt:

 

It’s rarely just a writing issue. It’s also a psychological one.

 

Because often when we communicate, we don’t just want to relay the facts.

 

We also subconsciously feel a burning need for all our hard work to be seen.

 

WE want to feel seen.

 

We want our reader to feel our pain.

 

And so emails turn into essays. Presentations turn into 3 part Netflix mini-series. Voice messages become podcasts.

 

Because what we’re really saying is:

 

‘Do you know how long I’ve spent on this project? Do you? Huh? The late nights! The early mornings… Dave from the marketing team with his RIDICULOUS ideas. Debbie the downer who kiboshed everything All. The. Time. That annoying new guy who just wanted face time with the directors without doing any work. It was so HARD. I had to do EVERYTHING. And YOU NEED TO FEEL ALL OF THIS!’

 

But, of course, your stakeholder just wants to know how that project is going.

 

If they need to worry about anything.

 

And what’s going to happen next.

 

They don’t care about your inner turmoil or the terrible time you’ve been having.
So the next time you struggle to sum up what you’re saying, ask yourself what’s really going on here.

 

Are you really trying to communicate what’s important, or just to share your pain?

 

Ouch.

accenture
UBS
Ricoh
Euromoney
University of Cambridge

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