In the vein of last week’s How To… on communicating clearly, I’d like to elaborate on an area.
When we want to communicate clearly and show ourselves to be decisive, confident and sufficient, we need to keep our speech very concise. However this doesn’t actually come naturally to everyone. It doesn’t to me, for example. Sometimes we need to bear in mind a few things when we’re trying to be to the point.
1: The content.
First of all, be careful and consider the content. Ask yourself…
What am I talking about?
Who is concerned?
When and where does it take place?
Why am I talking about it?
Anything above and beyond answering those four questions is too much. Sometimes it will take a lot to answer them, but generally most conversations and exchanges are a few sentences short. The rest is filler.
2: The grammar.
When reading I’m sure you spot uncomfortable repetition of words, very long or abrupt sentences and phrases that seem out of place. Bear this in mind when speaking and stick to clearly and simply composed sentences:
Subject (Who) before verb (What) before object (To Whom).
Cluster adverbs (How, Where, When, Why) at the start or end of the sentence.
List How before Where and When and Why either before them all or after them all.
3: The delivery.
Make sure the relevant parties are listening before you start.
Make sure you are easily heard and everyone knows what you’re talking about.
Ask for questions at the end of your statement.
4: The mental and emotional state.
When you are in an emotionally or mentally vulnerable state you will ramble more.
When you’ve been drinking, when your hormones shift, when you’re overtired or hungry or angry you will talk far more. Check yourself and try and speak as little as possible when you’re in these states.
5: The traps.
Finally, there are some conversational traps we all fall into that lead to rambling without noticing.
Repetition. When the other party keeps rambling and repeating themselves we can start repeating ourselves also. Make sure you are clearly heard and understood. Do not respond to repetition.
Loops. When there isn’t much to say or no agreement is reached, a loop can start where nothing new is added but the discussion keeps going. End or postpone the argument.
Digression. When we get sidetracked and carry on down the side track instead of the main argument. Keep focused and keep anecdotes, references and comments brief, without expansion.
Lack of structure. If there is no structure to our statements, speech or writing, then rambling will occur. Plan a layout in your head and try and stick to it.
Too much structure. If you plan the conversation in detail, the second you get sidetracked you may as well have no plan. Plan only your main points and order and stick to them both.
And that’s how to tell if you’re starting to ramble and a few tips for keeping it at least manageable.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!