Seymour Hersh Wants You To Get To The Point

Isaac Chotiner interviewed Seymour Hersh for Slate. Hersh is a journalist who controversially accused the Obama administration of lying about the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

Chotiner published an edited transcript of his conversation with Hersh as the Slate story. One really interesting part is when Chotiner tries to dive more deeply into an answer Hersh gave:

Chotiner: OK well it seems like the upshot of what you are saying, and correct me if this is wrong—

Hersh: I just said what I said. I don’t want to hear what the upshot is. If you have another question then ask it…

Hersh does not come off as a sympathetic character in this interview. But this is one part where I sympathize with him. Chotiner wastes a lot of words pushing Hersh in a particular direction. Hersh clearly doesn’t have patience for this.

Hersh reminds me of business executives

I’m not saying business executives are abrasive. But they do want to get to the point, quickly. No meandering. No wasted words. If you have a question, ask it directly. If you want to make a statement, say it clearly and succinctly.

The interview had one purpose, to clarify how and why Hersh published his story. As soon as Chotiner’s line of questioning expanded beyond that purpose, Hersh objected. It was a waste of his time.

Two lessons for life in business

Even though I wasn’t looking for them, I found two lessons in this interview I will use in my business life:

  1. Speak directly.
  2. Stay on topic.

The first lesson is easy. Less is more. Don’t use big words when you can use small words. Don’t summarize unnecessarily. Don’t circle back to topics that have been closed.

The second lesson is difficult. To stay on topic, you must know what the topic is. That’s the purpose of setting a meeting agenda. Everyone should know what success looks like, whether it’s a meeting, an email, a report, whatever. Ignore the distractions that take you away from success.

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