Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stop! . . . Get to the Point! - Peter A. Black

“Stop! Sto-o-op! . . . Will you please get straight to the point. What is it you’re trying to say? You completely lost me with all those
details. Never mind the details; get to the point.” A tide of frustration breaks over the dam of intelligent interest for some people when they listen to someone telling a story or recounting an incident, and the speaker gives every last detail – details that hinder, instead of helping, the story to unfold in a coherent, comprehensible manner. My wife is one of those “straight to the pointers,” whose frustration soon overflows when I fall – as I often do – into that mode of pursuing unnecessary details in conversation. It’s a wonder she has any hair left on her head with listening to you know who. I have to confess that I’m beginning to get sensitized to, and wearied by, endless minutiae – mostly when I’m on the listening end of things, myself. It’s baffling though, that after 50 years of public speaking, I have never conquered that tendency to feel the need to share detail that’s largely irrelevant to the point of the story or conversation. There’s hope. Writing offers a great vehicle for sorting out what’s important to a story or an account of incidents, events, and matters.
I think of the many years I pecked away on my faithful Underwood Five manual typewriter, preparing correspondence, sermons and Bible studies. I now wonder how on earth I did it! The scratchpad was handy for sketching things out and roughing up before typing up, for it reduced the amount of white-out I’d need to use. But nowadays, computing and word-processing means I can cut and paste and move material, points and ideas around the screen, before ever committing to a printout. Oh, how easy writers have it now, compared to how it was several decades back. We can read and reread, combing and sifting through our WIP (work in progress), assessing, reading out loud, getting a sense of nuance, and checking spelling and grammar as we go, or at the end. Cutting out the fat of duplication and what we, in our on-the-go review process have come to perceive as unnecessary detail, is easy. The delete key takes care of them in a nano sec Personally. I do need to work at the art of conversational word-processing in order to save my breath and my listeners from either frustration or zoning out and into la-la land. In this regard, I think my deliverance may well come through writing. Writing slows the pace at which thoughts are articulated into speech. It allows us to set out those thoughts and organize them into a concise form and in words that precisely express our ideas and feelings. Ah, writing – what a great gift! Writing and speech are so closely related. I love the opening of the 45th psalm: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer. You are the most
excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever” (NIV). With skilful pen may we write, and our lips be anointed with grace, enabling us to write and speak of that noblest of themes – the Living Word. (Cp. John 1:1-4; 14-18.) ~~+~~ Peter A. Black writes a weekly newspaper column, magazine articles and short biographical pieces.
He is author of the children/s / family book "Parables from the Pond."


Diana said...

Peter, you're giving away your age. A manual Underwood. Wow! I remember those, but I am a bit younger, I think. Our memories love detail. My mother likes to ramble. I've always been a cut-to-the-chase person, but as I've grown older I've found myself rambling. Tsk tsk.

An enjoyable and pertinent post.

Peter Black said...

Heh! Heh! Diana, That ol' Underwood was already quite senior when I bought it in 1976. The roller (the original) had just been recovered with brand new rubber; I doubt whether you can get that job done nowadays. I sold that t/writer in a yard sale 20 years later for $3 bucks. It was in great shape.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter, I could so relate to talkers not getting around to the point . . . I recently went to a meeting where the person seemed to have forgotten why they'd been invited to speak - :)

Peter Black said...

Been there and dunnit . . . I mean, being a member of the frustrated audience.
Confession time:
To my shame I've been up there doin' it, to the pain of the audience too, I'm sure!

Carolyn Wilker said...

I guess being a member of Toastmasters helps here: the time line with lights going on and the purpose of the speech in one manual being Get to the Point.

As a storyteller or writere,we do have to figure out which details are necessary to a particular story.

My husband will not part with his manual typewriter though he has learned to use the computer. What are typewriters worth to collectors these days?

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