Putting the bottom line top when talking
Suspense is for the movies! As a general rule in communication, you should make your point as early as possible. If further explanation is needed, that’s fine. But the point has to come first, so that all the rest makes sense to the other person…
Quite often when we are talking, we know what we want to say but the other doesn’t. We know the context, but the other doesn’t. Our objectives are clear, but only to us. To counter this, you need to make sure that you get to the heart of the communication as quickly as possible. This is known as putting the bottom-line top. Start with your point, keep it in mind and don’t keep people in suspense..
Compare the two following replies when Emily arrives home to see a doctor driving away from the house:
EMILY: What happened?
JOHN: Well… When I got up this morning I was already in a bad mood, because the neighbour was playing his music so loud. So, I went out to the garden to do some work. As it started to rain, I tried to work a bit quicker and when the neighbour came out in his garden, I looked up to talk to him while I was banging in a nail and banged my hand. It hurt so much that I couldn’t really drive so the neighbour called the doctor. Buts it’s OK now, no big deal.
EMILY: What happened?
JOHN: I hit my hand with a hammer, but it’s OK now. No big deal. It all started this morning – when I got up I was already in a bad mood because the neighbour was playing his music so loud. I went out to the garden to do some work. As it started to rain, I tried to work a bit quicker and when the neighbour came out in his garden, I looked up to talk to him whilst banging a nail in and hit my hand. It hurt so much, that I couldn’t really drive so the neighbour called the doctor.
If you are like me, you preferred the 2nd response. There is not much difference, but John gets to the point, quickly.
When you are talking to other people, try to put yourself in their shoes before you start talking. Ask yourself:
- What do they want to know most?
- What is the most important thing to say first?
- Am I saying the minimum effective dose, or adding in lots of irrelevant details?
If you put the bottom line top when talking, you will deliver clearer messages, create better understanding and your interlocutor will get better ROI for his listening effort.
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