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What Are You Trying To Say?

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

Whether you are a researcher, a presenter, a manager, a leader, an executive, a student, a spouse, or a parent, we have all experienced someone asking us, ", what are you trying to say?"

The art of getting to the point, isn't really an art at all.

I once had an employee say, "Kat, you know what I like about you?" To which, I nervously replied, "What is that?" He said, "I never have to guess where I stand with you or what you are wanting as a deliverable." I paused and then muttered, "Thank you, I think" and we went on discussing the project ahead. That comment caused me to reflect on this trait of mine, positive and negative; it was a part of who I am. Of course then, my husband had to endure the pillow talk session (ok sessions plural), which was really me flushing out my feelings of questioning my "gift of bluntness" and was it really just bluntness or was there something more.

Ever read the popular opinion that 10,000 hours of practice is the key to mastery (1)? What if I told you that there is evidence (2) to dispel this popular belief or evidence that suggest that there is a better way to mastery? Perhaps you are thinking what does this have to do with getting to the point? (humorous right?) If it isn't an art, then it is a learned and practiced skill that even you who may beat around the bush or you who feels lost delivering the facts effectively can benefit from.

So let's start with the three ways other than 10,000 hours that we can become proficient at this skill. First, learning happens most effectively over a longer time period of time (which basically means sitting in a workshop with me is pointless? Well, you don't know what you don't know.) Secondly, interleaving or mixing subjects, topics, and in this instance situations, increasing learning exponentially over concentrated or blocking methods. And lastly, testing, whether we want to admit it or not, facilitates expanded learning. I can hear it now, "Oh great, another educator focused on testing," but give me a few to posture these findings from Rohrer and Pashler.

Learn more with time, interleaving, and testing

Applying this to learning the skill of getting to the point, each time we communicate (every time), we must utilize or test the methods that I will share below in our personal lives and in our professional lives to effectively improve our ability to get to the point.

  1. Facts not feelings. This mentality embraces that facts are not personal but your message is.

  2. Audience matters. Are you using subject matter expert terms with a general audience? (See what I just did?)

  3. Nonverbals are loud. And sometimes distracting. What is the audience reading, seeing, feeling, and hearing as you are delivering the message?

  4. Visualizations summarize. Visual aids cleanly depict the facts without clutter and .

  5. Final format. Text. LOL. No. (See how that is a turn off?) Speech, executive summary, report, email.

Are you ready to help your leaders, students, employees become better communicators? Book your customized workshop or keynote speech on, "What Are You Trying to Say" with Dr. Katherine Spradley.


(1) Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-. (2008). Outliers : the story of success. New York :Little, Brown and Co.

(2) Rohrer, D., & Pashler, H. (2010). Recent Research on Human Learning Challenges Conventional Instructional Strategies. Educational Researcher, 39(5), 406-412. doi:10.3102/0013189x10374770

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