There’s a delicate balance between too much and not enough when it comes to effective communication.
Not getting the balance right can harm efficiency. Either people spend time and energy running around trying to find information, or they spend time trying to pick out what they need from a morass of information.
The most frequent problem I encounter is The ESP Presumption. This is when the communicator, or writer, is convinced everyone knows what she is talking about.
The leading indicators of this are puzzled facial expressions, people scratching their heads, and “huh?” repetition.
Another pervasive problem is TMI (too much information). In this case, the writer drones on and on including all types of information no one cares about. This is sometimes known as the Motormouth Condition.
The leading indicators of this are emails, letters, and other communications finding their way quickly to the trash. If this happens in a meeting, glazed eyes and people surreptitiously checking their Snapchat accounts are the main symptoms.
But how can we stop the madness?
With the ESP Presumption, the best trick is to pretend you’re a 4-year-old and keep asking, “Why?” You can assume your audience knows some things, but if you’re not sure, put it in. Use details and examples to illustrate your ideas.
With TMI, you need to ask, “How is this connected? Does my reader need to know this?”
Don’t think achieving that balance is easy. Revision is key. However, the effort means more efficient communication and a better chance of achieving your goals.