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Effective communication is essential to business success. As a business owner, your ability to convey your thoughts clearly and concisely can make or break deals, collaborations and relationships. One common pitfall many fall into is “nibbling” — the habit of over-explaining, asking unnecessary questions and failing to get to the point quickly.
I have nibbling tendencies. If you do as well, this article will explore strategies to help you avoid nibbling and become a more efficient and respected communicator.
The power of brevity
Imagine this scenario: You’re meeting with potential investors eager to present your groundbreaking business idea. However, instead of diving into the core of your proposal, you spend the first fifteen minutes sharing unnecessary details about the origins of your company. This is a classic example of nibbling, veering off track and failing to reach the point.
For most entrepreneurs, time is money. When you ramble about details that do not pertain to the subject matter, you take precious time away from others. Remember to present your ideas, comments, or concerns concisely.
1. Prepare for in-person or over-the-phone communication
Before in-person or over-the-phone communications, write down the main points you want to convey. If you are chairing a meeting, always have an agenda. If it is not a formal meeting, but you still have several items to discuss, I always recommend writing down your main discussion topics before approaching the person you will be communicating with.
By doing so, you will help yourself stay on track. If you need to tell a back story to get your point across, comment that the back story is necessary in advance to the person or group you are speaking with. That way, whomever you communicate with will understand that you share critical information. I recommend scheduling calendar time before meetings to plan your agenda and the items you need to discuss.
2. Choose your questions carefully
A nibbler’s common habit is to ask a question differently to achieve a different answer. Although this tactic can be effective in sales, if your goal is not to sell but to communicate, you need to accept the responses you receive from others. Additionally, if you have already decided on something, it is not a good idea to ask others the question to try to validate your own decision. You are not only wasting the time of your colleagues but also damaging trust and credibility.
3. Try to answer your own questions
Let’s say you have an issue with your computer, and a person in your office is good with technology. Try to find out the answer first online before asking for help. This approach demonstrates to others that you only ask questions when necessary.
4. Be a patient listener
Effective communication is a two-way street. Allowing your counterpart to respond is vital. Never interrupt someone mid-answer with more questions. It disrupts the flow and conveys that you’re more interested in your agenda than their input.
Let the other person fully answer when you ask a question before moving on to the next question. Doing so shows your respect for their perspective and encourages more comprehensive responses. Remember, conversations are about building connections and furthering relationships
5. The importance of email
Whenever possible, use email. Although it can be tempting to go into someone’s office and ask a question you feel is vital, remember to respect your colleagues’ space. No one likes to be interrupted, especially for matters that are not urgent. If you do not need an answer at a particular moment, always use email. Plus, having the dialogue in email makes it easy for you to review in the future.
You are more likely to get to the point immediately and include only the necessary details in emails. Emails discourage on-the-fly nibbling during impromptu conversations, as you’ve already collected your thoughts in written form.
Of course, there are situations where an immediate response is critical, and in those cases, a phone call or face-to-face conversation may be warranted. However, by embracing email efficiency, you reduce the likelihood of falling into the trap of unnecessary nibbling during impromptu interactions.
6. Shift in mindset
A conscious awareness of your communication patterns can be an excellent first step to breaking free from the nibbling habit. Always strive for clarity, respect, and efficiency. Being a non-nibbler isn’t about rushing through conversations. It is about delivering your message effectively, asking purposeful questions, and genuinely engaging with others. By honing these skills, you’ll save valuable time, build stronger connections, and leave a lasting impression as a business owner who values meaningful dialogue.
Nibbling is a tendency I believe I have always had. Until about five years ago, when my managing broker mentioned that I was a nibbler, I had no idea I was one. I think it is easy for anyone to either be a nibbler or become one. However, if you plan ahead, remember to be respectful of other’s time, and be aware if you are a nibbler, your nibbling tendencies can either disappear or significantly decrease.