Sat, July 20

Brevity is a little tool with a big impact

Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

I could tell by my friend’s body language and facial expression that she felt irritated.

She had asked me if I could go to lunch with her on the following Monday, and I had launched into a detailed explanation about what I had to do that day that made it impossible for me to join her.

During lunch later in the week, my friend had the courage to tell me she had been frustrated during that conversation.

All she wanted was a simple “Yes, Monday works for me,” or “No, Monday doesn’t work.”

Just the bottom line would have sufficed.

That brings me to a simple definition of a communication tool called Brevity. Brevity means getting to the bottom line quickly. It means speaking concisely, cutting to the chase without going into unnecessary stories, explanations, excuses or descriptions.

Brevity packs a lot of power.

As I see it, Brevity’s power derives from three benefits. First, in order to use it, you have to develop one of the most important elements to life and relationships – listening. You can’t possibly use Brevity without staying present to (i.e. listening to) every word that comes out of your mouth, as well as to the emotions and meaning that underlie the words.

Not only does Brevity enable you to listen to yourself, it encourages others to listen to you. When you develop a reputation for being brief, others pay attention when you speak. They know if they don’t, they’ll miss your message.

Others respect you (Brevity’s second benefit) when you don’t waste their time with unnecessary verbiage. They esteem you when you don’t become lost in your own word forest.

You may think you’re leaving a clear trail of breadcrumbs for people to follow your message and meaning. However, if you create a communication forest dense with words, others won’t be able to see those breadcrumbs. You lose people, and you lose their respect.

Brevity helps you respect yourself.

When you’re brief, you’re clear.

When you communicate with clarity, you feel good.

Your self-confidence increases, and in the process, so does your self-respect.

Have you ever wished meetings could be shorter? A third benefit of Brevity happens when everyone in a meeting agrees to use Brevity. By doing so, they can cut the meeting time by as much as 50 percent. In giving reports, some people go into unnecessary detail about their process for gathering information. In most cases, they can cut to the chase and give only the information pertinent to moving the project forward. Usually, it’s simply the bottom line.

That day when I verbally assaulted my friend with too many words, I learned a lot. I saw clearly how I had disrespected her and how I had eroded some of her trust.

I still catch myself being too wordy. Therefore, for one month, I commit to focusing on brevity as my tool-of-the-month. I will get to the bottom line quickly in my conversations.

I invite you to join me. Let’s foster listening and respect in ourselves and others through the tool of brevity, and see what happens.

Dr. Marta writes and teaches in the Verde Valley. She is the author of Why Wallow When You Can Soar? available on Amazon. For comment, write or call:, 928-451-9482.