How do you know if you’re a good communicator? Joe McCormack’s book “Brief” Make A Bigger Impact By Saying Less argues that we’re not as good at communicating as we think.
Brief is an excellent breakdown of communication problems and where working professionals can improve.
First, I’ll give you some general information, a synopsis of “Brief” followed by my likes and dislikes from the book.
Book Length: 217 Pages plus notes and index
Audiobook runtime: 5 hours 29 minutes (Audible)
Published by John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey
Copyright: 2014 by Joseph McCormack
McCormack’s main idea in Brief suggests that frequent unclear communication is devastating to our personal and professional lives. Moreover, today’s working world engages in too much incoherent communication to attain the highest degree of effectiveness.
To articulate his claim, McCormack divides the book into four sections: Awareness, Discipline, Decisiveness, and Action Plan.
Section 1: Awareness
By focusing on self-awareness, this section outlines the issues behind communication. For instance, McCormack introduces the Elusive 600 principle referring to the difference between words processed (700) and words spoken (150).
Meaning, humans process information quicker than they can say it. Said differently, 600 other words are floating in a person’s mind that spawn other thoughts, which then takes the attention away from the present moment.
Many of these Elusive 600 moments come from our technology’s constant pings, dings, and buzzes that redirect focused attention toward the offending sound.
Further, working professionals are inundated with information to the point where they cannot effectively process it anymore. When this happens, people get less productive by getting bogged down in too much information.
McCormack rounds off this section by highlighting adversaries to brevity and identifying them along with a short success story.
Section 2: Discipline
Here, McCormack moves into the practice of brevity. Further, each chapter in this section explains strategies to incorporate brevity.
He introduces the mind map used to organize thoughts for a discussion, brief, or presentation. This section also shows the audience how to prepare and use the map to avoid being long-winded.
Next, McCormack suggests that using narratives will keep the audience engaged with the content. Stories are important to communication because they help the audience to relate to the content being delivered. However, he cautions his audience to stay brief with their stories.
Finally, McCormack shares the talk, active listening, converse method to emphasize brevity.
Section 3: Decisiveness
Finally, this section identifies scenarios where professionals need to implement brevity. For instance, meetings, emails, and sales pitches are areas where people need to improve their communication tactics.
McCormack identifies the dreaded Meeting Villians and shares success stories of when brevity saved the day.
He finishes this section with suggestions on how to provide updates to those who need them. For instance, McCormack advocates for only providing useful information instead of rattling off a list of details.
Section 4: Action Plan
As the shortest section, it quickly became the most important. It shows the action plan for implementing the strategies taught in the book. If anything, read this section if there isn’t enough time to read the whole book.
It is a good synopsis for the busy professional.
What I Liked
Brief is true to its word. At only 217 pages (pictures and diagrams included), the pages practically turned themselves. McCormack’s writing style complimented the book’s thesis, which made Brief more interesting.
My favorite portion of Brief was the mind map. I have already used it several times to prepare for briefs and personalize my approach to close relationships. Organizing my thoughts through the mind map has allowed me to manage my audience’s attention much better.
When coupled with the mind map, trimming has also been a helpful strategy for me. I liked McCormack’s explanation on trimming details to get to the essence of a thought. It brought the concept alive for me in ways that I never thought about before.
The book was a perfect blend of ideas. I didn’t get bogged down with complicated topics, nor did I feel like McCormack was insulting my intelligence. Instead, the concepts in the book made sense without much fanfare.
Lastly, Brief is universal. All professions and personal lives can benefit from applying the tools from this book.
What I Didn’t Like
Brief tended to villanize technology as an adversary to brevity. Understandably, technology has become a distractor for many working professionals to the point where people are bombarded with information. However, I argue that Brief could have covered a few more tools to combat the onslaught of messages and notifications people receive every day.
The book does talk about minimizing notifications, but it doesn’t go much further than that. While reading this book, I felt like the text could have offered more in this area.
Further, I felt like the Elusive 600 concept did not get enough attention throughout the book. I believe it would have amplified some of the personal anecdotes and solidified concepts like the mind map.
Brief is an excellent source for people who want to improve their communication skills, which should be all of us. Many working professionals do not get formal training on briefing or email writing, so people either find out the hard way or never at all.
Further, many get frustrated with miscommunication and dealing with its ramifications because they don’t know where the communication breakdown occurred. Brief is an excellent tool to help anyone tired of facing these issues at work and in their professional lives.
Overall, I give this book a 10/10. It’s not every day I give out a perfect score. However, there are not enough books about this topic, and McCormack found a niche area of professionalism that desperately needs attention.
If you want to purchase the book, click here.
Have you read Brief? How did you like the book? Let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!