The longer your answer to a question, the more you did not answer the question.
We’ve all experienced this.
One of our children breaks something that didn’t belong to them, something they had no business playing with in the first place.
Naturally, we want a clear explanation—but what do we get?
“Well, see, what had happened was…”
What comes after that is a long-ass word salad, giving me every random piece of information that tells me everything BUT the answer to my question.
The thing is, that doesn’t stop when we’re children.
How many times have you asked someone a question—particularly in the work setting—where they gave you a long-winded response that never actually told you what you wanted to know?
Better yet—how many times have YOU been the one giving the long-winded answer?
All too often, people respond to questions with a lot of words without actually saying anything.
Not only do they not answer the question asked, but they talk until they’ve only answered the question for THEMSELVES, and not the person asking.
Sometimes people feel like they have to use a lot of words because they are insecure. They feel it is the only way they can thoroughly explain what it is they have to say—when in actuality, they said nothing at all.
Other times they don’t know the answer and they’re too embarrassed to admit it. As such, they’ll talk their way around it until they feel like they’ve said enough to satisfy the person asking the question.
When I encounter this with someone, I’m very frank. I’ll say:
“Okay, I heard you say a lot there. Now, answer that question for me again in ten words or less.”
I do this for a number of reasons.
One, it makes the person realize that they didn’t answer the question as well as they thought they had.
Better still, it makes them have to cut out all the bullshit to make their response impactful—to make it understandable and digestible. It cuts the fat off the dissertation they gave me to get to the heart of the answer.
Because I hold people accountable to this, I also do it for myself.
I make it a habit to be extremely conscious of both the question asked and the efficiency of my answer.
For example, if a new Author asks me something specific about our process, I won’t give them ALL the minutiae about how we write and publish their book.
Not only does it make it seem as though I don’t actually know the answer to their question, but a long-winded answer might cause anxiety for them by giving them an information dump that they weren’t looking for.
As one of our co-founders said to our Tribe very recently, “Clarity is Kindness”—and he’s exactly right.
Being succinct and clear in our answers is the best thing we can do for the person asking the question—and frankly, for ourselves too.
I’ll teach my kids to say, “Me!” when they break something else so that, next time, they’ll show me the same kindness!