I recently caught a rerun of an episode from the US version of the sitcom The Office. It’s the one that starts with Kevin talking in a caveman-sounding, rudimentary language that he’s using to “save time.” Needless to say, it doesn’t go well or last very long. (Check out the scene in the clip below.)
When Kevin gets called into the manager’s office and is told that he needs to use full sentences at work, he argues in favor of continuing to use his econo-language by saying:
“But save time, more success.”
The co-workers argue back that, at most, Kevin is saving a minuscule amount of time. And besides, they ask, what would he do with the time he saves? Kevin answers:
But then the co-workers can’t figure out if he meant that, with the time he saves, he’d “see (the) world” or go visit “Sea World” (where the fish and dolphin are), resulting in a discussion long enough to defeat the original purpose of saving time.
You’ve likely been on the receiving end of someone who communicates with “extreme” brevity. Maybe they send an email with just an attachment and no context. Maybe they text a 2-word reply to a question that warrants a more nuanced answer. Maybe they give cryptic answers to their direct reports during meetings. (Or maybe you’re not on the receiving end—maybe you’re the one engaging in unhelpful brevity in the name of saving time!)
When you’re communicating, remember that if your part of the conversation saves you time but causes other people to spend more time, then it’s not an efficient communication. Strive for clarity by putting yourself in your audience’s shoes. And don’t get me wrong: being verbose is not the answer either. Whether it’s in an email, a text, an in-person answer to a question, think about how you could use the fewest words to explain your idea completely and address likely follow-up questions. That’s trick. Not easy. Worth try!
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want. If you’re interested in working with Guillermo, sign up for a free meeting to explore how he can help.