KISS: Keep it Simple, Silly

Sometimes I say too much. In my efforts to explain something to someone, the message sometimes gets lost in the details. I was recently at a training in which I had to ask another participant a challenging question. When I asked the question, her response was something to the effect of, “I don’t know what you are asking me?”

Interestingly, I was perfectly clear about what I was asking (in my own head). Her response helped me realize that I had overly complicated the question with words. In my efforts to ask her a challenging question, her response to it challenged me! How could I ask the very same question with fewer words? How could I keep it simple, silly?

There have been many occasions in my professional life that I have received resumes, read articles or attended conferences in which the content seems overly complicated. When this has happened, I have spent more time contemplating why the material has been presented in that manner than paying attention to the points being delivered. As a result, I have lost the original purpose of the information to begin with!

There may be many reasons that people over-complicate material. Perhaps they have not quite distilled the material to the true meaning? Perhaps they don’t know how to make the material easier to understand? Or maybe they think that more information makes them appear more important?

Although we may never know why someone else provides more information than necessary, it is important for us to know why we do it.


When it comes to fixing something, one first must know what has led to the issue to begin with. This is true for many fields including clinical care, auto repair, or for professional development. A good self-assessment can help one identify and determine what is driving behavior. When it comes to excessive information delivery, determine if you are doing so in efforts to appear smarter and to impress your audience or if you simply do not know how to make your material clearer and more concise. As you tune into the underlying origin, you can implement appropriate intervention.

If you are using excess terminology, overcomplicated explanations or idiosyncratic jargon in efforts to impress your audience, you may find that it leads to the exact opposite. As a rule of thumb, an audience is present to learn about what you have to say. If there is material presented that leads to confusion or misunderstanding, your audience will disengage, become frustrated or worse yet, leave. As a result, the impression you leave could be exactly the opposite of what your intentions were.

On the other hand, if you are having trouble simplifying what you are trying to articulate (as I was when attempting to ask my colleague a challenging question), take a moment to think. Consider what your objective may be. How might you achieve that objective by saying less? At times, simply taking a moment to think through the goal of your message may allow you time to synthesize the material into a more digestible way.

To keep it simple, silly, we need to use understandable terms, simple words and short sentences. Keep in mind that your goal is to convey important information to others that want to hear what you have to say. By keeping your delivery simple and your audience in mind, you will get much further at achieving your goal than if you try to outsmart everyone in the room.

Kathleen Glow-Morgan is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker that has been employed by the Veterans Health Administration since 2008. She currently works as a National Transformational Coach Captain and Health Systems Specialist within the Office for Veterans Access to Care. Ms. Glow-Morgan is a Certified Alternate Dispute Resolution Mediator and a Certified Change Management Practitioner. Ms. Glow-Morgan has expertise in conflict management, communication strategies, coaching and change management. She has presented at numerous national conferences and workshops. 

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