A to B to C

A to B to C

This one is in connection to some earlier posts on ‘Impactful brevity’ and on effective communication (So what’s your Point?). A friend recently sent me a hilarious video on WhatsApp that somehow reminded me of an incident from high school that I was surprised I remembered. Wonder how the memory had managed to survive in the junk in my head for so long.

Here’s what had happened. During a Physics lecture somewhere in high-school, our teacher was explaining to us, the oscillation of a pendulum. We drew the oscillating pendulum, which looked something like the one below, and we noted the definition as instructed, which read something like, “one oscillation of the pendulum, is when the pendulum moves from point A-C-A-B-A, or from B-A-C-A-B, or from C-A-B-A-C.” The definition seemed a little amusing, but I guess there weren’t many other ways to define it

image: TutorVista.com

While studying for the upcoming test, and this was probably the simplest definition; a realization hit me. It was that the definition completely depended on the drawing or image, and that it would be meaningless without it. Then another thought hit me. That I was probably really stupid to make such a big deal of something so obvious.

When we got our test scores, having scored reasonably well, I was quite upbeat. The teacher, while reviewing overall performance, mentioned the question on oscillation. I wondered, the definition couldn’t possibly have gotten any easier, so why was he bothering to mention that. He said, that a good number of students in class had defined oscillation with the ‘A-C-……’ definition, but had not drawn the diagram, and hence their definition was meaningless, and it didn’t get them any scores for that answer. Damn, I thought. Suddenly, my realization didn’t feel all that stupid.

Here’s the funny video that reminded me of it. Hope you enjoy a good laugh, like I did. And yeah, things aren’t always as obvious as they might seem.

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So what’s your Point?

Back in Engineering, a bunch of us close friends had the habit of asking ‘so what’s your point?‘, usually when one of us was sharing details about some important or serious incident with the rest. For instance, say a relatively shy friend was explaining about how he struck a conversation with a girl he had a crush on. So he’d explain the tiniest of details about what was going on in his mind, how nervous he was, how she reacted, what she said, blah, blah, the works. And while he couldn’t possibly get any more serious, we’d wait patiently for him to finish, and then with a real blank face, one of us would ask him ‘so, what’s your point?’

Those words would instantly leave him flabbergasted, and it would take a moment before he’d recover and retaliate with a barrage of expletives. And then we’d all burst out laughing. It was one of those brotherhood things. Am sure a lot of you have done something similar more than once in your life.

Anyway, it’s been almost a decade since, but I recently remembered the phrase. And the importance or the meaning of it suddenly struck, or connected.

When we communicate, especially at work (via emails, face-to-face, on call) with clients, prospective clients, industry colleagues, etc. , we sometimes just talk and lose perspective or the purpose/ objective of a discussion. More so if we’re marketing a product or a viewpoint, or are desperate to prove a point.

That’s when I feel it is important for us to ask ourselves, ‘so what’s your point?‘. The question needs to be answered keeping both our perspective, as well as the target’s point-of-view in mind.

Essentially, what that boils down to is, we start writing more concise, orderly and clear emails rather than taking the sheep grazing, because while writing, we are double checking whether what we’re typing will make logical sense from the receiver’s point-of-view or not. We also tend to bring back into focus, the purpose or objective of a business pitch, a political or religious debate with colleagues or friends, or anything conversation or discussion for that matter. That way, if winning or losing a discussion/ argument is relatively pointless  (when you get “nothing” as the answer to your ‘what’s your point?’), then it makes sense to just drop the topic and move on, instead of just getting lost in the heat of the situation and just punching away blindly.

This thought was aptly put across as back in time as 1657, by Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher, when he said, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

In our current times, with shrinking attention spans, I believe ‘impactful brevity’, in thought, word and online text is gaining significant importance. That being said, I believe this  simple question might help us get there faster.

WhatsYourPoint