Friday, April 24, 2009

The Benefits of Saying Less...

The pilot on a flight out of DFW came on with an important announcement: "We have enough fuel to get to Atlanta."

Hmmm. I probably was assuming that before he mentioned it. Is this something I really wanted to have brought to my attention? Is this something I needed to hear?

I started to imagine all the other situations in which I really would not appreciate an announcement. How about a nurse who assures you that the needle she's about to stick in your arm has never been used before? Or a waitress who mentions that the cook washed his hands before he made your sandwich? Again, really something I prefer you not call to my attention.

A boyfriend who says that he is not going to break up with you today? A boss who is not going to fire you? (Okay, in today's economic climate, that one might be nice reassurance to have.)

But we often say too much.

Here are five situations in which I'm thinking saying less would have been more:

1) Describing one more product feature, after the customer's facial expression indicates that she has already decided to buy. By describing an additional feature, the only thing you can possibly do is trigger an objection the customer had never considered.

2) Beginning any meeting or speaking opportunity by letting people know that you are poorly prepared, or that you prepared at the last minute. At a minimum, this demonstrates a lack of respect for the importance of the event, or other participants. In most cases, you also significantly decrease your listeners' receptivity to what you're about to say.

3) Asking a question that shows you have absolutely no idea about something you really should understand. I know, people often say there's no such thing as a dumb question. But, frankly, that's just... well, dumb. Sometimes it's much wiser to do some research (or ask a friend) in order to get some basic facts, and then come back with "smarter" questions.

4) Trying for a second laugh after your first spontaneous comment proves amusing. (Think of this as the "George Costanza rule" for any of you who are Seinfeld fans.) It almost never works. Quit while you're ahead.

5) Assuring people things won't happen that people never imaged would. An airplane with enough fuel should be a given.


What would you add to the list?