Communicating with precision improves comprehension, recall, persuasion, and likeability! Whether it’s verbal or written, clear and concise communication is appreciated by others. Learn three strategies you can employ to communicate with precision.
WHY & HOW We Can
Communicate with PRECISION
Two main reasons WHY we should communicate with precision:
- Comprehension – you are better understood
- Likeability – you are liked
Image from Canva
Three TACTICS we can employ to be more precise:
- Leverage the power of three
- Make 3 your default because three is balanced, substantive, and precise
- Use headlines
- Suspense is over-rated. Start with the punchline.
- Repeat yourself
- Ironically you can be more precise when you repeat yourself.
“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.”
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Talk About Talk
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“…you should be precise with your words. Yes, when I put it in a metaphor of like, a butter knife isn’t really cutting much. It’s a butter knife. It spreads things, you spread peanut butter. You’re actually not cutting much. When something needs cutting, you get the steak knife. And then, you know, I’m getting heart surgery, I want that guy to have a scalpel. I want them to be really precise…”
That’s Jill Nykoliation, the award-winning CEO of ad agency JuniperPark\TBWA.
Communicating with Precision is something that Jill advocates for her staff and for the award-winning ads that they create. Precision as in cutting to the chase. Cutting, not with a butter knife. Not even with a steak knife. We’re talking precision with a scalpel.
Why would you want to communicate with precision? When we’re precise, we’re succinct. We’re concise. Our message is more clear. It’s information that’s better understood. It’s also recalled more readily, and it’s more persuasive. And, speaking with precision is so much better than the opposite. Do you know what that is? Well, one of my clients told me that he is an epic storyteller. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing. So he clarified. He told me that he does not communicate with precision. Instead, he has verbal diarrhea!
Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 103, focusing on Communicating with PRECISION!
I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!). Welcome! If you’re an ambitious executive with a growth mindset, well, then you’re in the right place. Talk about talk is a multimedia learning resource, where you’ll find online courses, tip sheets, corporate workshops, one-on-one and group coaching, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, AND, the free weekly communication skills training newsletter. You can access all of these resources on the TAT.com website. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll sign up for the free newsletter/
In this episode, we’re focusing on communicating with PRECISION! Whether its verbal, or written, and whether it’s professional or personal. Whether you’re making a point in a meeting, telling a story at the dinner table, writing an email to a client or your boss, or yah, hosting a podcast episode. Precision is a good thing.
Before we go any further, let me be perfectly clear what we’re talking about here. This episode is less about precision as in choosing the right word, and more about precision as in being succinct. Keeping it brief. As in less is more. Sometimes that’s the same thing, but I’m focusing more on brevity than I am on vocabulary. OK?
Have you ever heard the quote “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” That quote is commonly referenced when people are not being succinct or precise. When they include unnecessary details and words. That’s what we’re talking about here.
And by the way, I looked it up, and this quote, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” has been attributed to Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Voltaire, Blaise Pascal, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Winston Churchill, Cicero, Bill Benjamin Franklin and even Bill Clinton, among others. I thought you might be interested so I’m sharing that, even though it might make this episode less precise. Yes, I’m feeling a bit self-conscious in his episode. Please let me know if I’m rambling!
All right. In this episode, you’re going to learn 2 reasons why communicating with precision is so critical and 3 ways that you can be precise, or avoid verbal diarrhea, as they say.
Let’s get into this. As always, you don’t need to take notes, because I do that for you. I summarize everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So just keep doing whatever you’re doing. This has become a kind of a thing. Let me guess – are you driving? Walking? housework,? Getting dressed for the day? This is the beauty of listening to podcasts, isn’t it? You can just keep doing whatever you’re doing, and while you’re listening you don’t need to worry about taking notes because I do that for you.
Are you ready? Ok, let me start with this. The two reasons why we should all seek to communicate with precision are related to 1. comprehension and 2. likeability.
So first – comprehension. A message that’s precise, that’s focused, like a scalpel, as Jill Nykoliation says, is more clear and better understood. Compare that to someone who rambles on, taking us down twists and turns, whether they’re telling story or explaining their perspective, or whatever. A more focused, precise message is better understood, easier to recall, and oftentimes more persuasive.
Consider the context of giving someone feedback or providing someone with instructions. The more clear or single-focused your message is, the better understood it will be. Of course.
So precision improves comprehension.
The second reason we should seek to communicate with precision I that if you talk less and let others talk more, there are all sorts of benefits to you. For example, the more precise you are with your answers in a job interview and the more you let the interviewer talk, the more likely you are to get the job! Of course I am not talking about one word answers. Rather I am advocating that we avoid meandering off into unrelated topics or unnecessary details.
When you’re in a job interview, you need to make sure you answer the questions asked of you thoroughly. But you want to focus on your key message. And make sure you’re providing the interviewer with lots of opportunities to talk. Then you’re more likely to get the job.
Also, the less talking you do in a sales pitch, and the more you let the prospective customer or client talk, the more likely you are to make the sale. And even in small talk. Research shows that when you encourage others to speak more, they end up liking you more.
So those are two compelling reasons for us to communicate with precision. A more focused, precise message is more easily understood, more comprehensible. And it also makes us more likable.
Of course we all want to be understood and to be liked. But how do we make this happen? I have three strategies for how you can communicate with precision. Yes of course 3.
- Leverage the power of three
- Use headlines
- Repeat yourself – yes, I’ll explain in a minute.
First is to leverage the power of three. I dedicated a whole episode to this topic – it’s episode #93, and it’s one of my favourites. I hope you’ll listen to it if you haven’t already. Let me briefly summarize – the point here is that whether you’re outlining a paper, outlining a presentation, creating a meeting agenda, preparing a sales pitch, or even writing a story, you can leverage the power of 3. That’s 3, not 5 or 10. Three.
Three main ideas, 3 sub-topics, 3 characters, or 3 reasons why.
And why is 3 so powerful, so effective? Well, 3 is BALANCED – Think about how a stool with three legs or a tripod is perfectly balanced. 3 is SUBSTANTIVE – It’s thorough, 3s convincing. Three can even be a trend. And most importantly, 3 is precise. It’s NOT OVERWHELMING – Limiting ourselves to 3 makes it easier to understand and remember things.
So that’s the first way you can improve your precision. Leverage the power of 3.
The second way you can improve your precision is to use headlines. Whether it’s written or verbal communication, a well-considered, precise headline will clarify your message. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, it depends on the context. A great example is if you’re writing an email, change the title to match what your main point is. And early in the email, make sure you tell the reader exactly why you’re emailing them.
I have a quick story. I’ve told this story a few times, but it is very relevant here. When I was a doctoral student at Harvard Business School, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of students and faculty where I would share my research. I spent hours creating my slides in my script. I felt incredibly well prepared.
So there I was in front of about 40 students and faculty members. Things were going ok. I was about 1/3 through the presentation, when one of the senior faculty members seated at the back of the room raised his hand and said, “Andrea, what’s your point.” I looked at him, and answered directly. “I will get to it in a minute.” He scowled. About 30 seconds later, he raised his hand again – and this time he stood up”. Andrea, what’s your point?” he asked, in a very annoyed tone. I respectfully looked him in the eye and said, “I just want to get through my research methodology and then I’ll share that with you.” He slammed his hand on the desk and said, “no, you need to tell us your punchline. Now. Or your audience walks.”
Honestly, I won’t forget that as long as I live. Start with the punchline. We don’t need foreshadowing. We don’t need insinuation. And we definitely don’t need suspense! We need a headline. A clear, focused, succinct headline.
So use headlines.
Now we’ve covered the 2 of 3 ways to communicate with precision: 1. Leverage the power of 3, 2. Use headlines.
The 3rd and last way to communicate with precision is to repeat yourself. YES, I realize this sounds ironic. How can we communicate with precision – be more succinct and focused – by repeating ourselves?
Here’s what you do: tell em what you’re gonna tell em, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
By the way, I do this ALL THE TIME in these podcasts. I start by telling you what you’re going to learn, then I share the content, then I summarize.
I tell you what Im gonna tell you, then I tell you, then I tell you what I told you.
I realize this sounds very repetitive. But think of it this way: You start with the headline. Then you share the goods. Then you summarize with the main point. It’s clear. It’s focused. It’s communicating with precision.
Imagine you’re writing an email or writing a thought leadership paper – or yah, giving an academic presentation. You start with the headline or the punchline (no suspense – get right to it). Then you deliver the goods – maybe leveraging the power of 3. Then you summarize with your main message. There’s no confusion about your main point. You’re clear, focused, and you’re communicating with precision. Beautiful.
Well, it looks like this might be one of the shortest of the over 200 talk about talk episodes. I told you that I am feeling self-conscious about this. Can you imagine if I started rambling? Nope. Not gonna happen.
I leave you now with the main reasons why we should communicate with precision: comprehension and likeability. That’s it. When you communicate with precision you are understood and you are liked.
And the 3 tactics you can employ to be more precise:
- Leverage the power of three
- Use headlines
- Repeat yourself
I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Especially if you’re one of those people who rambles on with epic stories and unnecessary detail. Which of these tactics works for you?
Alright, I hope you’ll let me know how it goes. You can go to the talk about talk.com website. Click on contact and send me a message there.
While you’re on the website, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter! This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email. Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list.
THANKS for LISTENING. Talk soon!
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