Can you get to the point?

Keep attention, say your piece and be clear

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I think we’ve all been there haven't we?  - sat in meetings, presentations and lunches when someone has been rambling on and on or pontificating about something and we’ve asked ourselves ‘what’s your point?’ or ‘I wonder what the point is here?’  Well if you ever wonder that, everyone else does too – if, indeed, they’re still listening long enough to be wondering.

Do you find you ask someone a question and they explain and explain and tell you too much of the story and in fact, they never answer the question. They often end up confusing themselves or forgetting what the question was in the first place.  They’ll also, most likely, lose your attention too.  If this sounds familiar to you as something you either experience or even do, then I have a simple question for you to ask and a helpful, assertive way to ask it.  It’s a bit like a key which unlocks the point from the story.  

It’s just the same if you ask someone something yourself.  If you come out with the actual question fairly quickly then the other person knows where you’re coming from.  They don’t have to sit wondering, with the twists and turns of your explanation, what your actual point is.   In the fast-paced world in which we live, it’s easy to lose people’s attention. 

Sometimes it really helps to ask yourself a question first - before you ask or approach anyone else.  The question you ask yourself is “In one sentence, what’s my point?” with the key part being ‘in one sentence’.  It enables you to grab, from all the stuff swimming about in your head, the point .

We always know what it is when pressed like that and it’s a relief.  We say ‘well, I suppose it’s XYZ’ or ‘gosh, one sentence?  Well, it’s XYZ’.   That’s when we get what the point actually is, with no frills, no explanation or justification.  It’s then, with this in mind, we can approach what we want to say, ask or find out. 

You can really save a lot of time and help other people to ‘get to the point’ by asking them the same question; the difference being your approach.  You want to avoid closing them down by coming across as blunt or rude.  You need a few sparkly verbal garnishes or accessories, if you will, to ease the question across.

“Hey there Laura, just so I can get clear with you what we’re thinking about, what’s the point please – in just one sentence?  It’ll help me to know if and how I can help you more quickly.” 

There are 3 key things to remember here:

  1. Position it as being helpful to you both “what we’re thinking about”
  2. Use their name and keep your tone light and friendly
  3. Your intention is to clarify, not to say “yes” or “no”, just to get clear

Ah, now we have it.  Now we can start to line up and sort – like a computer does - for what’s actually going on.

If you’re going too far into the story and explanation before you’ve got to your point and the fire alarm goes off or the phone rings, will people know what the point was of what you were saying?  Now that’s my point.



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Kay White

Savvy & Influential Communication for Ambitious Women in Business,