Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 03/02/2020
“Nuance” is defined as “a subtle difference in meaning.” We often don’t realize the cause, but an artistic performance, or business presentation, or family dinner table discussion can be highly rewarding or disappointing based on the presence or absence of nuance.
We saw a performance of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” last night, his last play before his far-too-early death. He was a giant of the American theater, and the play was remarkably well acted, including a last-minute injury substitution who carried his lines with him but was absolutely magnificent. Ironically, the weakest actor was the lead, whom I’ve seen do powerful and excellent work in the past.
But the director allowed him to overact, to forego nuance. His constant reaction was a vein-popping, red-faced, head-bobbing, screaming manifesto. It became predictable and boring and, therefore, ineffective. Some of us recall “Johnny One Note” (a popular song) about a guy who could only hit a single note. Speech without nuance, conversation without shading, is too often just flummery.
I’ve created tremendous impact in front of thousands, for simply sitting with another person, and lowering my voice, as if sharing a secret, as in, “And that is the true key to happiness.” And you know something? When you’re not shouting, when you use nuance, more people take pains to listen more carefully.
Lots of us have expertise in particular areas. Becoming an expert in something means we become more and more fascinated by nuance and complexity. That’s when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it’s like not to know what we know.—Chip Heath
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