Too Much is Sometimes Too Much

I spend a lot of time on airplanes. More often than not, there are weather delays, or mechanical issues, or something else that prevents my flight from leaving at the advertised date and/or time. Usually when this happens we get some sort of message from either the pilot or flight attendant over the intercom. I'm amazed at some of the things that they'll say on that thing! Do we really need to know that the thing that they are fixing is imperative to our ability to take-off and land. I mean, if it's busted, I'm not so sure I want to be on this plane even after they fixed it. This introduces a whole new series of anxiety-inducing questions that I would have never needed to entertain.

'If that thing broke, what's to stop it from breaking again?'

'What if the guy fixing the broken part, doesn't do a good job?'

'What other little very important parts could have been affected?'

Sometimes too much information is not helpful-- it can be actually quite hurtful. When communicating with customers and donors, we need to give them enough information to accomplish our goal for that particular conversation-- but that's it. This is especially important when things go wrong. Often when there is a problem, we get insecure. When we communicate out of our insecurity, we often say more than we should say. When we say more than we should say, we may make things actually worse.

Here's a simple way to overcome this challenge: plan ahead. When you must have a challenging conversation with a customer or donor, think through what the goal of that conversation is. Write it out on a piece of paper. Make a short list of talking points that bring clarity to the goal you've defined. Finally-- and this is most important-- plan to listen more than you talk. Many times, the customer or donor just wants to be validated-- they want to be given the opportunity to voice their concerns or frustrations--and if you can give them that, then you can often accomplish more than your best speech ever could.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I've gotten into trouble over the years by saying too much. Now I intentionally hold back and try to speak more minimally and more wisely. This is especially difficult in a leadership context, when people are expecting you to say a lot.