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Is Brevity Always a Virtue?
Leaders have learned to speak and write in bullets, to the benefit and detriment of those on the receiving end.
Reading and listening habits have changed. Sound bites and talking points are now the preferred kinds of messages to produce and consume. “Be bright, be brief, be gone,” is now the motto of good leaders across the world. Brevity has never been a bigger virtue than it is today.
Audiences are now used to reading and listening for social connection and confirmation, as opposed to understanding. This fact is exacerbated by how quickly people lose interest.
Attention spans have narrowed, as well. It’s not clear what is the chicken and what is the egg. What is clear is the idea that leaders have accommodated both trends by compressing complex messages into bite-sized pieces.
Is that a good thing?
Making an argument can’t be done in short, abbreviated points. Strong advocacy is the casualty of the trend toward condensed messages.
We’ve been spoiling our teams with compact communication. And, thus, the skills to think through a complex issue and debate the merits of a decision option have become atrophied.
The best leaders fight this trend.
They ask team members to read, listen, and watch full narratives which capture the complexity of the issues in question. This leads to better dialogue, advocacy, and decisions.
This is not to say good leaders don’t also depend on snappy and easy-to-consume messages. Keeping the attention of any contemporary audience requires it. But leaders who frequently supplement bullets and outlines with well-developed arguments and in-depth prose prevent the decline of sound thinking and decision-making.
Teams that are used to grappling with complete messages full of competing arguments keep the edge to think critically.