Little Johnny had been playing outside. He came running into the house and asked, “Mommy, where did I come from?”
She’d been waiting for this question, so she took a deep breath, sat down with Johnny, and explained all about the birds and the bees and the wonders of how children are conceived and born.
When she finally finished, she asked him, “Did that answer your question?”
“I guess so,” he replied. “But Joey said he came from Boston.”
Sometimes we give people a lot more information than they want to know!
That can be true about libertarianism and political issues, too.
When someone asks you a question about libertarianism, begin by giving them a short answer. Start with soundbites.
Most people prefer to get a little information and then ask more questions, rather than getting a long lecture in response to one question.
A conversation goes much smoother when there’s give and take, so before going ahead and giving a longer answer, get permission from the other person. Ask them a question like one of these:
“Did that answer your question?”
“This is one of my favorite topics. Do you mind if I tell you a little more about it?”
“Do you have time to discuss this further?”
“Would you like to know a little more about this?”
Continue to be sensitive to their level of interest. Be alert to signs of disinterest, like fidgeting, looking around the room. Be ready to ask a permission question again, if the conversation extends.
(If you sense their attention is drifting, or time is an issue, you can also offer to supply further information in another form. “I know a great short article on this topic. Would you like me to email it to you?”)
Of course, sometimes you can sense that the person you’re talking with is very interested and desires to talk and learn more. But you’d be surprised — sometimes that is hard to tell, especially when you’re in the midst of talking about a great passion of yours. So play safe and ask.
It’s generally better to give too little — and leave them interested in hearing more — than to drown them in information.
As Michael Cloud likes to say: Don’t try to quench their thirst with a firehouse. Offer a glass of water instead.
Remember the old show business wisdom: “Always leave ‘em wanting more.”