Occasionally, my husband starts taking me down a long and winding road about some part of his day. I have no idea where we’re going, or if I even want to go there.
So, doing my best to inject humor in my tone, I jump in with some language that he can understand: “Give me the headline first—you’re burying the lead!”
I know he will “get” what I mean because I learned that term from him, a veteran of more than 20 years in journalism: “burying the lead” means that the most important news is taking a backseat to trivial details.
Although an excellent writer, he doesn’t always transfer those editing and writing skills to speaking. Instead, he tends to spill out details, like notes jotted down in his mental notebook.
So if this is how it goes for a professional story-teller, can you imagine how tough it can be for people in general to get the knack of getting to the point upfront?
In a recent training within the World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) organization, Laurie Duncan, an Amway Triple Diamond, skillfully communicates about this reality when she says:
“Tell the end of the story, before filling in the whole story. Get to the point of the topic up front. The most effective communicators tell you the end of the story before they go into the drawn-out details of the story. That way, listeners relate all of the details to the end-point, they never get lost.”
There is a clear parallel between Laurie’s point and the practice of news media—whether in print or electronically. Outlets are continually topping off news stories with headlines designed to make you want to read more.
Once you dive into the story, the first few sentences (aka “the lead”) give your audience the big picture and everything beyond that fleshes out the details in support of the lead.
As Laurie mentions, the same approach is the way to go with interpersonal communication:
The “up-front” type of communication is very respectful to your partners and listeners. It lays everything on the table to create an air of trust and openness.”
If I know where we are going, not only do I not get lost, but I’m engaged. I become an active listener instead of a passive hearer.
In other words, as I’ve said to my husband, “If you tell me where we’re going, I’ll gladly follow.”