It may be an urban myth, but legend has it that Ernest Hemingway once claimed that he could write a novel in six words.
The story has it that the legendary writer & journalist was having a drink with friends when he made the claim. His friends each placed a $10 bet that he couldn’t live up to his claim, when Hemingway picked up a napkin and wrote six very dark words on the back.
For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.
Most of us would immediately identify that behind these words lies a tragedy, and doesn’t bear thinking about any further.
Whether the Hemingway story is true or not is another story, but the idea behind a six word story is one worth considering.
In 2006, Larry Smith, the founder of SMITH Magazine, drawing inspiration from the Hemingway urban myth asked ‘Can you tell your life story in six words?’
The responses were beautiful, sad and inspiring in equal parts.
Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends – from a nine-year old cancer survivor
I still make coffee for two – from a dumped 27 year old man
Whilst George Saunders summed up life perfectly….Started small, grew, peaked, shrunk, vanished
Why is this important to you? Especially in the context of business?
When you talk around a subject, waffle on in your emails or prattle on in a text message you actually work against your objective.
By providing too much information, you water down the meaning of what you are trying to communicate.
Worse than that, you could also trigger cognitive overload. This is sometimes known as analysis paralysis and in cognitive psychology, is where someone provides too much information or too many tasks simultaneously, resulting in the receiver being unable to process it.
By being concise in your communication, you can ensure that the intended message is received and understood. Of course, there are times and situations where more detail is required or pleasantries/courtesy is appropriate, but undoubtedly there will be times when you communicate too much information.
Before you next communicate with your team or write that email, ask yourself this…
What do I really want to communicate, and is there a way to say it more succinctly?
If it is an important message then make sure to keep it short and to the point so it is received and understood!