Short and Sweet Communications Are Usually Best

What is your typical communication style?

Groucho Marx 01Effective communication is a major challenge for most of us. I’m not talking about simple willingness to speak or write, nor merely to be a good listener, both of which are important aspects of effective communication. As for being willing to speak, we all know people who can talk our ears off—usually about themselves—no matter what the original topic was, at the slightest provocation. They seem neither to notice nor care if we’re tracking with them. There’s a word for this clueless babbling: logorrhea (law-ga-REE-a).[1] Informally, I call it the yada-yadas or the blah-blah-blahs. But logorrhea is descriptive and has a certain ick factor because of the –rrhea suffix it shares with another well-known word. I don’t know of anybody yet who’s called in sick to work because they were up all night with a bad case of logorrhea, but it could happen.

SpeakingSome folks aren’t necessarily afflicted with logorrhea but still talk (or write) too much. Their tendency is to overexplain simple concepts, using fifty words where five or ten would suffice. Overexplainers either assume you are too dense to understand what they’re trying to say, or they don’t fully understand it themselves, so by filling the ether, or the email, or the text message, with words, words, and more words they hope to sort it out in their own minds. How does it feel to be the recipient of an overexplainer’s overexplanation? For me, it sometimes feels like I’m being patronized. To patronize someone is to treat them in a condescending way. No Bueno.

Active listening is a key to effective interpersonal communication. Some people are good at listening—at least seemingly so. They are able to tune in to the speaker, stay focused, aGirl Listeningnd give periodic signals that they’re tracking with the speaker such as “Uh-huh,” “You got that right,” “Oh, boy!” and “Tell me more about it,” and nonverbals like head nods, smiles, creased brows, looks of surprise, and other appropriate facial expressions. I’ve always been a fairly decent listener—definitely not a yada-yada type of person—so I’m easy prey for the speaker afflicted with logorrhea. Fair warning: if you’re going to say to someone “Tell me more about that” (presuming you’re able to sneak a word in edgewise), you’re asking for more yada-yada and blah-blah-blah—you have no one to blame but yourself.

Lastly, there is the person who speaks (or writes) way too little.[2] I wrote an email once to a person about a small copyediting project I had completed for them. I said something to the effect of, “Here is what I’ve done . . . now, I want to be sure you received my other two completed projects. Please confirm.” The person’s reply? “Thank you.” That’s it. Just “thank you.” Apparently, they stopped reading after “here’s what I’ve done” and figured that the rest of my message was just blah-blah-blah. D’oh!

Yes-No-Maybe ChoicesThen there was the text message I sent to a different person a while back briefly explaining an important situation regarding a mutual acquaintance. I not only gave information but I also sought information, asking a question. I carefully edited my text to weed out the yada-yadas as much as possible but still typed a message with full (and grammatically correct) sentences. My correspondent answered with a four-word reply, which did not answer my question. So I formulated a second text and got back a one-word reply, still not answering the question. I began to wonder if it was my fault. Was I operating under the illusion that my message was clear? I sent a third message—again using complete sentences—and received a three-word non-answer reply. Bottom line: my correspondent wrote a grand total of eight words without addressing my question. So I gave up. Words to describe this person’s type of (non)communication style are terse, curt, brusque, and laconic. Some would say rude or dismissive. I realize that sometimes people are terribly busy or distracted or important and can’t always take the time to formulate thoughtful replies. But come on!

If we’re going to communicate effectively, we can strive to be brief, pleasant, and to the point, using full sentences and correct grammar (especially in writing—yes, even text messages. Gasp!). We keep logorrhea to a minimum, we don’t patronize, we listen (or read) actively, and we avoid terse, dismissive messages. There’s an expression for this type of thoughtful communication style: short and sweet.  That’s what I aim for—most of the time, anyway.  Δ

[1] Etymologically, logorrhea means “flowing words.” Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary 11th ed. defines logorrhea as “excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness.”

[2] Yes, of course there are more communication styles than these four—for another essay. This essay is probably too long as it is.

© 2017 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved

Author: Dean Christensen

Educator, copyeditor, writer, baseball bug, word lover, book hound, guitar picker, classical music aficionado, classic rock 'n' roll and movie buff, sinner, saint, former this, used-to-be that, and future who-knows-what. Every day is an adventure in learning how to make the world a better place--grammatically, anyway.

2 thoughts on “Short and Sweet Communications Are Usually Best”

  1. Thanks for adding a new word to my vocabulary. I do believe that folks challenged by logorrhea teach the short and sweet folks patience and listening skills. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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