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Say Less For More Impact

(June 12, 2023 Newsletter)

When speaking, many of us tend to want to add "just one more thing" - but the tighter your message, the more accurate and memorable it will be.

  • This is especially true for women, who (on average) speak 3x more words per day than men.

  • Same for speaking regularly with executives - those with the least time want the tightest messages.

As Antoine De Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, wrote, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

  • This should be your mindset as you practice speaking more concisely.

  • [By now you probably know that I’d prefer the word “excellence” over “perfection,” but otherwise the quote is perfect!]

So when prepping, write out what you want to say, and then start slashing.

Here are three tricks:

1. Imagine you'd be cut off right after you've started talked - make sure your opening message is your most important one.

  • "We surpassed our projections by 10%."

  • "We're 10% short of our target."

  • "We expected 50 signups for this event and already have 72."

  • “I’m happy to report that your promotion was approved.”

  • “I’m sorry to share that your promotion was denied.”

2. If you’re speaking and have a tangential but important point to add, give the header and add:

  • “I can be more specific later, if that would be helpful.”

  • "I'm happy to give into more detail after, if you'd like."

  • "Feel free to ask follow up questions at the end, if there's time."

3. If you're asked a question, answer it directly.

If you're asked, "Do you think John is ready for a promotion?" Your answer should start with "Yes,” “No,” or “I’m not sure,” followed by “Here’s why…”

  • Many people start with something closer to: "You know, it's interesting, I've been thinking about this for a while now. As we consider who should get promoted and who shouldn’t, we should keep in mind… In John’s case… and therefore, John [should/shouldn’t] get promoted at this time.”

  • For the entire time you’re speaking, the listener is just wondering what the end of the sentence will be. So help them out and just start with it. Then you can give an explanation, if needed.

It takes practice to speak more concisely, so try it out and let us know how it goes!

Want more on speaking concisely? From the archives: “3 ways to end sentences and be more concise”


The Coaching Corner

"What do you think?" This week, when you're asked for your opinion, I challenge you to ask this question before responding. It's a simple and powerful way to bring out the best in others. Here are some variations:

- "I have some thoughts, but I'd love to hear yours first." - "What's your gut saying?" - "What's your initial reaction?" - "What are you debating between?"


  1. Emotional Agility - watch Susan David’s popular TED Talk for inspiring words on “the gift and power of emotional courage”

  2. Bookmark some icebreaker questions for the next time you'll need them

  3. Parks and Recreation. With the end of Ted Lasso, my husband and I have replaced the nightly need for something light and funny with a classic sitcom (can we call it a classic yet?). Reply and share: what are you watching now that makes you laugh?


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