The fashion icon and entrepreneur Coco Chanel always paused to consider her outfit before leaving for an engagement, and made it a habit to remove the last item she had put on. Her guiding mantra in this ritual was “less is more.”
The “less is more” maxim originated in the world of architecture, but its pithy wisdom applies to just about any human endeavor – from acting to arbitration, from cooking to selling, the trick is knowing when to stop.
We overcompensate in situations when we don’t feel at ease or up to the task. We put on too much makeup, over-season the dinner, and don’t stop talking.
How often do we repeat ourselves unnecessarily, just because we’re anxious that we might not have gotten our point across? Too many words overwhelm the listener, and they tune out.
We bloat our conversation with “fillers” for the same reasons we’re driven to fill the silences at social occasions by whipping out our smart phones. The uncertainty of the moment makes us nervous.
And yet, silence can be magnetizing. You’re leaving room for the other person to hear their own thoughts, share their own experiences.
How are you today?
When a call begins with this line, we know the sales pitch is coming. It’s meant to establish some kind of rapport, but more often than not it’s a signal to preemptively hang up the phone.
Padding our message with unnecessary language – “How are you today…”; “The reason for my call is…”; “I was wondering…?” – is the verbal equivalent of dragging our heels because we feel uneasy getting to the point.
“I was wondering if…” sounds more like a casual thought that just crossed your mind than a businesslike request for a meeting. Prospects willing to share some of their time expect you have something of value to offer, and that you’re not just calling on a whim.
“I’d just like to offer you…” Similarly, the word “just” trivializes the request. Sorry to intrude, it’s saying, this invitation is meager and unimportant, and may be a waste of your time.
Padding at the end of a prospecting call sounds similarly tentative: “…Is that something you might be interested in…?”
Using all these fluffy words and phrases is a bad habit we all succumb to sometimes.
But habits can be abandoned and better ones adopted in their place. The trick is to recognize what you do, understand why, and decide to act differently. And that’s not really a trick at all. It’s a commitment to a better way of doing things.
Adopting a less is more verbal habit will make anyone a more effective and persuasive communicator. It takes practice to develop, but it’s a very good habit to cultivate.
Got any stories about a time that you made more out of saying less? Tell us about it in the comments below.