Say less for success


By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

The more words one uses, the less are remembered. The success formula is to skip the convoluted and elaborate, the irrelevant, and the unnecessary. Cut the bluff, fluff and stuff.  The greatest virtue of a speaker is to say what is necessary, but also not to say what is not necessary.  Many take far too long to get to the point and then there are those who like to hear themselves talking. Communication should be focused, simple, tranquil, and have a mindful approach. Conversing in such a way that others love to listen.


Actually, some people are even proud to be able to speak without thinking. And it is noticeable that they are able to say nothing like no one else can. In William Shakespeare’s charming way of expressing it: “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.” Or stated in a less charming way: it is a bunch of diddley squat. Brush up your Shakespeare. Blessed is the person who has nothing to say, but abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.


In essence where it boils down to in communication is attention span. It is the time people are willing to listen or read before the timer goes off and the rest of the information is dismissed. The average attention span is 8.25 seconds according to recent studies. Long enough for a catchline or rallying cry. The next two sentences will determine the value of message for continuing to listen or read. Mosquitoes are notorious for their short attention spans and are easily distracted by movement.  That’s why it is so annoyingly difficult to swat them away. A study has shown that adults check their messages 25 up to 80 times a day on average. The attention switches between social media, smartphones, tablets, TV, radio, or other media with an overload of numerous tasks, thoughts, and distractions. It makes their minds juggle and what is left over may be for your message.


The two sentences after the headline should show the value or benefits to continue. Audiences hear what they want to hear and often disregard the rest. But even what follows needs something to keep the spark alive. Such is often tried with predictions like: ‘this year looks promising and next year things will be extraordinary’. Some speakers are like a fortune teller who is trying to seduce the audience and predict like an astrologer. And then there are those who like to add spice to their presentation and try to make it as hot as a chili pepper with a conspiracy theory. One can only hope that aliens come to take the person in their flying saucer on the way back to outer space and removed from the planet.


Think about who you have the honor to address! You think you communicate well, don’t you? Then you probably know the difference between speaking to a constituency, conferencing during a preacher’s convention, and being a disciple making pitches in a jungle of disbelief. It is all around one theme. But if you cannot understand that difference, how can you get your message across effectively in each case? Effectively meaning, do the audiences buy it so well that they will stand in line to get it? However, victory is only assured if the arm is as mighty as the tongue.


Everyone wants to hear the truth, but no one likes the facts. It is a fact that light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. And that is exactly how things often get out of perspective in communication. There are two things that will utterly offend almost anyone, even if it was expressed and even meant with absolute sincerity. The one is telling them that they don’t communicate well and the second is that they might want to seek help from a psychologist.

Perfecting one’s intellect is achieved by using less words, and those few words spoken will be adorned as wisdom. Audiences will wow. Not using many words can be a welcome relief. However, it shouldn’t stop one from highlighting the most important words with more intonation. But then again mind the native Apache saying: “It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.”


“Boastful speeches are the first sign of weakness, and those who are capable of great things keep their mouths shut” according to Cicero, the Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, writer and academic skeptic. He is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. In our modern time one would say that two barriers to successful communication are message overload and complexity. So, keep your speeches short and simple, skip the poppycock, and never miss a good chance to shut up.


Express key points that really stand out from everything else that is stated. Give the audience catchlines. Don’t even try to make them experts on the subject as a result of listening to you. Such belongs in academic classrooms. Too much messaging can lead to boredom. Messages come across better when they are extremely short, like slogans or headlines. The shortest message that exists, consists of two letters: NO. What part of NO don’t you understand? The more words used can lead to a meaning lost or misconstrued.  If one is not careful, they can backlash in some way or another. One cannot misconstrue NO.

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