How many details matter

Efficiently exchanging information helps to make us humans the top of the food chain. It gives us the ability to work closely together and express complex thought through a variety of different formats – spoken and written being the most commonly employed. But in a world awash with information, how much detail do we need to get our points across?

A recent study shows that the average office worker spends about 25 percent of their time responding to or composing e-mail messages. That amounts to around a 167-page novel written each year by each one of us. Coupled with the proliferation of text messaging, the ubiquitous voicemail and, yes, even good-old-fashioned post, most of us struggle to keep up. But, the communication matters. It keeps communities connected, families on track and businesses humming. So how do we keep the lines open without overloading our circuits?

As we go through the end-of-day rundown in our house, I’ve been known to accuse my bride of telling of her day in real time. Even as she dutifully shares with me the particulars of the conversation she’d had with her mother, my attention wrongly begins to wane. And, I’ve been known to pare down too much. Imagine this exchange: The Smiths had a baby. What did they name it?I’m not sure. How big is it? I’m guessing that it is baby-sized. Well, do you even know what it is? I don’t know what kind of baby – I assume it is a boy or a girl. Over time, I’ve learned that gender, size, name and condition are important variables that need to be reported.

So, until us meager humans are able to effectively deploy the Vulcan mind-meld so deftly administered by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, we have to find our own way – clumsily but sincerely.

Terry Anker

Terry Anker is an associate editor of Current Publishing, LLC. You may e-mail him at terry@youarecurrent.com.

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