Cull the Weeds

On Sunday I spent time weeding our gardens. They had gotten so overgrown I felt claustrophobic looking at them. So, on my hands and knees, I culled weed after weed until free space emerged around the hosta, hydrangea and hibiscus.

I stepped back to check on progress and involuntarily exhaled at so much free space. Not only were the gardens more pleasant to look at, it was easier to see where one plant ended and another began. They had room to breathe and grow.

As I wiped the sweat off my brow and dug dirt out of my fingernails I realized that, just like weeds in a garden, sometimes our verbal communication needs culling, too.

What it means to cull.

According to Dictionary.com cull has the following definitions:

Verb: to collect, gather, pluck

Noun: something culled, especially something picked out and put aside as inferior.

Does Your Communication Need Culling?

In my coaching and facilitation work I’ve noticed two key areas that often need culling.

  • The stories we tell ourselves
  • The stories we tell others

Let’s take a quick look at both.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Last week I was working with a client on the stories she would use in a future presentation. The more we dug into those stories, the more her inner stories kept creeping up.

Things like, “I’ve only been in this career for a short time,” “I don’t have as much experience as my peers,” and “Why would the client listen to me?”

When not “culled”, inner stories about verbal communication – everything from networking to giving presentations to leading meetings to motivating others – can stifle opportunities for growth and advancement.

If inner stories are clogging your growth, ask yourself the following questions. (the same ones I asked my client):

  • How do these stories help me?
  • How do these stories keep me stuck?
  • Is there a new story I can write to achieve the results I want?

The Stories We Tell Others

Often the clients I work with believe more talk is better. I can’t blame them. As author Susan Cain pointed out in her best selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking, society, including business, tends to reward those who talk more, even if their ideas aren’t that great.

Yet talking too much can leave an audience (of any size) feeling confused, lost, or distracted. They don’t have room to process information. They get overloaded.

By culling, we say exactly what we need to say, create breathing room to let ideas sink in, and allow space for others to speak up, too.

If your verbal communication – what you tell others – needs culling, consider the following.

  • Be aware. Be aware of how fast and how much you speak. Videotape or ask trusted peers for feedback.
  • Breathe. When speaking, take an inhale and exhale at the end of a sentence to create space for you and your audience before continuing.
  • Less is more. Go wide with what you want to say before culling. Then, identify the key pieces that will help get your point across. Get rid of the rest. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough. Practice.

Bottom line

Weeding can be dirty work. Culling our inner and outer stories can be, too.

If you are willing to do the work to “cull the weeds”, your communication become more clear and you have space to breathe and grow. Just like the hydrangeas in the garden.

Now it’s your turn to talk to me.

  1. Do you have a garden?
  2. What are your favorite plants/flowers?
  3. What’s your process for culling your inner and outer stories?

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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