Why you should say less than necessary

In Robert Greene’s best-selling, controversial book ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ is the law ‘Always say less than necessary’.

Whenever I think of this line, and the book more generally, my mind jumps to Marlon Brando in The Godfather, or Niccolo Macchiavelli.

But it runs more deeply than just being a power play. The more important lesson to be heeded from this rule is about listening.

I’ve said more than necessary for years. There have been so many phone calls, meetings, negotiations, matters of the heart, matters of the mind where I’ve kept talking for longer than needed.

Sometimes I even hear my inner voice telling me to stop, but it invariably gets overridden and on I go.

This happens most often when I’m nervous, intimidated or excited – the adrenaline kicks in and I over compensate.

And as you may have noticed in your own experience of saying too much, the longer you continue, the lower the chance of you making your point effectively.

As an extra bonus you also lower your chances of listening to what the other person says next, let alone listening to what they’re feeling.

No bueno.

An early learning from my coaching certification program was derived from this topic.

Coaching is still very much misunderstood as a practice – a lot of people see it as providing advice, mentorship or consulting.

It’s connected to these disciplines, but there are some key differences.

A couple of the misconceptions are that the role of the coach is to provide advice, and to offer solutions.

This is extremely difficult to avoid, especially as you get started.

Sometimes when we provide advice it can be succinct, but all too often we jump to a solution and get excited at the idea we’ve had.

It’s worth taking some time to focus on the challenges [1], then the desired outcome, and let the solution show itself over time.

However, with some training and focused practice there’s another way.

There’s in fact far more space than you may think.

Say less than necessary.

Ask an empowering question that’s necessary.

And listen more than necessary.

 

 

[1] Design thinking also teaches us to focus on defining and exploring challenges first before jumping straight into solutions

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