Get to the point! Have you been tempted to say that to someone who is going on and on, talking about everything under the sun, but you just know they want something? Some people can talk for hours it seems and say nothing. I had a coworker do that years ago and I finally said “bottom line up front Chris, what do you want? Our manager had been sharing with us the importance of putting the important things first – especially with emails. He called it BLUF for short – bottom line up front, meaning taking the request that you normally put at the end of the email and having it stated first. We have a bad habit, myself included, of putting all the supported reasoning first and then making the request. I have found this to be more effective.
When you are presenting this makes great sense. You start with something that grabs the audience’s attention and gives them a taste of what is to come. You layout your reasoning and then drive home the point at the end. Otherwise, you will lose them. You need to show that you know where you are going otherwise they won’t follow. But even in casual conversation, you need to know what you are trying to say and then say it.
Part of the problem is that often we may not know what we want or where we want to go. Sometimes we just want to relax in the comfort of friends. We don’t want to feel pressured to perform. We may be shy or reluctant to bring up tough questions or issues and use what I would call “warming up” as a way to approach the subject. We might mention the “landscape” for lack of a better word. Things that surround the topic, like our past history, others’ experiences, or our thinking about it, without stating a clear question, opinion, or request.
It’s kind of like dipping our toes in a cold lake or pool. We are afraid it will be too cold, but we think maybe if we gradually get in it won’t be so bad. I’ve done that and soon you get in. But often it is better just to dive in -get it over quick. What we fear is often not what happens and we put ourselves through more angst going gradual. Maybe we think the longer we take the better the chances that we won’t have to face whatever we fear after all.
I recall many times having this experience with dating in college. I would spend time getting up the courage to call a girl for a date. I was afraid that one of my dorm mates would overhear the conversation. What would happen then I don’t know – I didn’t think that far. I was just embarrassed and worked hard to avoid it. Sometimes it would last a couple of hours and I wouldn’t be able to make the call. Then I would be relieved – the pressure was off. But then the next day it would return full force again. The only time it really went away was when I successfully made the call and got the date. I put myself through such angst those days. If I had only just asked the girl in person I wouldn’t have had to suffer – and they usually said yes.
So, when you are trying to communicate make sure what you want to say, how to say it, and to whom you want to communicate, and then just jump in. Don’t tour the neighborhood, go knock on the door. People will appreciate that.