That means a lot of people tune out even faster. To get your point across, it’s often better to actually say less. (Key words “surprisingly effective.”)
There are many things you don’t need to share. Unless you’re about to be arrested, or are giving explicit instructions about how to do something, in general you don’t need to explain very much.
To help you out, I’ve made a handy list of things you don’t have to tell people. The most exquisite conversations happen outside the details of these 9 things. At the end, there’s a link to conversational life support.
Things you don’t have to say:
1. Why you are vegan. Or why you’re not vegan.
We only need to know your eating limitations if we invite you to dinner.
2. Why you can’t come to something.
We want to know if you can make it –that’s what the RSVP or meeting invite is for. Whether you can attend is timely information. If you can’t come, all you have to say is that you have a conflict or previous commitment.
3. Why you are late.
First of all, arriving on time is likely late. Second of all, text us (or call!) to let know if you’re running behind. Third, the best explanation would be brevity incarnate, with a stiff dose of taking personal responsibility.
The exception is if you have a job and you are arriving late to work or a key meeting. Then you need a really great story to explain.
4. Why you can’t do something.
Most people are not going to find a list of your personal limitations interesting. Your mother and in-laws might be the exception to this. To further muddy the water, there is that persnickety gray area between “cannot” and “will not.” The more you make it sound like it’s your choice not to do something, the better.
If your boss is asking you to do the impossible, simple ask which of your enumerated projects you can put on the back burner in order to accomplish the new assignment.
5. Why the thing being discussed won’t work.
Disregard this if the people in the conversation are imploring you, “Hey, please tell us why this won’t work.” Otherwise, silence is golden. Learning experiences (aka “failures”) are too valuable to be avoided.
6. Why you think you’re coming down with a cold, or stomach ailment.
All medical issues are best discussed exclusively with your healthcare provider(s).
7. The details of your workout routine.
You work out. That is awesome! We don’t need to hear how many miles you ran or swam or biked today. We are very happy for your fitness!
8. What is wrong with other people.
This is a tough one. It can be astoundingly obvious what other people need to do in order to be as awesome as you are. The thing is, whatever negative comment you make about a third party will stick in the mind as associated with you. For example, if I comment on someone being tacky, the person I share that with will remember “Laura” and “tacky” in the same brain file. Not the desired effect.
If you find yourself in a negative conversation about a person, you can save the situation by pointing out, “But what I really appreciate about Helga is that she always ___________.”
9. Bad news.
There is a reason why we have the expression “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Messengers and their messages are normally closely connected in the minds of the audience.
It’s not that you have to avoid reality, but be exceedingly careful in sharing bad news.
When you take the time and effort to edit your comments [and emails] you are making the world a better and happier place.