Sunday, April 5, 2009
“It’s all in the detail.” “Details are necessary evils.” “Details make all the difference.” “Details are great.” “The devil is in the detail.” You’ve heard all of these notions. In fact, you’ve repeated them. And yet, communicating in detail may be the exact wrong approach to take with some people. If you’re a technical person, you probably have great respect for details and when people ask you a question about something you’re working on, you may launch into an explanation that includes the details. If you’re not careful, you may not notice that their eyes have glazed over and their attention has just diverted to the next meeting on the schedule or worse, they have dismissed you and become frustrated with you because you don’t value their time. So, what can you do? First, consider how much they already know about the subject. I was speaking to a banker recently about the mark to market accounting procedure. I happen to have a decent understanding of this subject, yet the banker assumed that I knew nothing and explained it in great detail. Also, consider how relevant the detail is to the intent of the conversation. What is the outcome of the conversation? It’s best to use details when missing them will result in a false understanding of the outcomes. Of course, it’s also critical to assess your audience. How much detail does he or she want? Just remember, details may be critical to doing your job, but they aren’t necessarily critical when communicating with others.