THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS

July 1, 2013

If something is boring, our first instinct is to blame the length. We say, it’s too long. But this is rarely ever the reason why something is boring. It’s very much like blaming the people for slamming the door instead of fixing the door so that it cannot be slammed. We make a quick assumption about what the cause is, and proceed to blame it without evaluating other possible causes.

If the length is not why it is boring, what else could be the cause? One possibility is that it simply isn’t interesting, period. That is, it is intrinsically and fundamentally lacking anything of interest. If true, even if it were shortened to a few seconds, it would still be boring. But this too is rarely true. If the person who is trying to communicate it thinks it’s interesting, there have to be plenty of others who share the same sentiment. In terms of DNA, we are 99.9% identical. If one person finds something interesting, there should be millions of others who also find it interesting.

Another possibility is that the manner in which it is being communicated is ineffective, like an article that is poorly written, a speech that is hard to hear or follow. The content itself is interesting but the poor form is getting in the way of it. This happens often but most of these situations are not so painful because we are at least interested to some degree.

So, what is the most common reason why something is boring? In my view: Wrong audience. An article about a new accounting standard might be boring to the majority of people, but many accountants would find it interesting, or even fascinating. If you find something to be boring, it’s likely that you are the wrong audience for it. In other words, there is nothing wrong with it or you. Just a wrong combination. The reason why this is the most common and the least recognized reason is because it has no scapegoat that we can attack. Whenever we feel annoyed about something, we need something to blame it on, so that we can release our frustration. We cannot do this if the reason is simply that we are not the right audience for it. So, we naturally and unconsciously seek a scapegoat, and “It’s too long,” is our favorite scapegoat of them all. In reality, the length has nothing to do with it.

The bottom line: When you are trying to communicate something, choose the right audience first, and then optimize your form for that audience.

 

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