Friday, March 12, 2010

Brevity: The New Courtesy?

My German father-in-law handed me a book from the 70s called (translated from the German):

'Shorter, More to the Point, More Precise: The New Communication Style of the Modern Leader.'

(Kind of a longish title for a book on communication brevity but it's shorter in German.)

The introduction reads as follows:

''Information was never so important. We live in complicated systems held together by an information net. Distance is irrelevant. People exchange information, sometimes over telephone or Internet, or even on paper. The volume of communication is growing: meetings, memos, messages, notes, emails. We need a new communication style that is shorter, more to the point, more precise. We need a new definition of courtesy that takes other people's time into account."

Two things occurred to me as I read this:

1) The Germans are sometimes considered rude for their curt, direct communication style. Even I think so and I'm used to them. Still....

2) Think of the time that could be saved if people would say what they have to say and be done with it!

Do we create more work for ourselves with unnecesary verbal embellishments and waffling? Can we learn to live without them or are we too sensitive, too fragile, too ready to take offense?

I'm not denying the importance of polite communication in business and social interactions, I'm just not sure what that actually means.

Therefore, for the next month I resolve not to take offense when someone speaks or writes to me bluntly... as long as they keep it short.

*Picture courtesy of Chris Wolf.


  1. Enjoyable post....I wonder,
    is it the response of the receiver that has caused us to waffle and pad our conversations or the drive towards political correctness and inclusiveness that has people trying to cover all angles?

  2. Nicely brief, Ames! BB - I think that's a great question, although it really comes down to the same thing. Quite a few people think 'collaboration' means that everybody participates in every low-level decision, rather than everybody doing his or her job reliably as part of a cohesive team. And of course there are all those polite rules of engagement we have to follow such as, 'There are no bad ideas,' which tend to prolong the conversation. These rules have value but it takes time to cater to everyone.

  3. I am blunt and short in my communication. Do I win double? ;-)


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