Be Smart About Art

Don't over-explain

written by: Susan J Mumford Oct. 21, 2018 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 1324 views

Don't over-explain

What do you do if it’s time to bring a working relationship to a close, leave a job and the like? You give notice and most often have a conversation.

The question is this: How much do you explain?

Most often, it’s best to go with the philosophy that less is more. While you can express in detail the reasons for making change, it often doesn’t help. Yet if the other party wants to find out more, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to say.

This topic came up in a recent mentoring session with an artist. He was set to start working with a new gallery, however the Director kept moving the goalposts. One week they were going to do a show together and the following week it would be delayed by three months. The next thing he’d know, they would be talking about placing works in a venue, and yet in the conversation afterwards, the plan would be to put the pieces in yet a different location. He decided to draw the line when the gallery failed to send an agreement by the promised date.

In this scenario, had the artist provided a long explanation, it’s probable that the Gallery Director would have come back to him, providing a defense on each individual point. This wouldn’t have helped the situation for either one of them, as the artist’s mind was made up after giving the business multiple chances.

While the artist had industry experience under his belt, the gallery was a start-up – and was showing it. Getting experience results in wisdom, and you can hope that the Gallery Director learned from her mistakes on this occasion.

As helpful as it is to say less rather than more most the time, you know deep down when you need to arrange a meeting to talk through things at depth. Whereas the artist in the above story was in the early stages of building up to a working relationship, it’s a different matter when an artist and gallery have been working together for a decade. That said, it would still make sense to say less to start, and to get into detail in a face to face conversation.

Not only can it be easier and less painful to say less, it can also be the kinder thing to do. This can easily apply to a variety of professional relationships, including clients, colleagues and other collaborators, and it can relate to varying circumstances. 

As for a tip to help you not overly explain yourself: draft a message and leave it overnight. In the morning, have a look with fresh eyes and see what you think. Have you said too much? Not enough? It’s amazing what a night of sleep can do to provide you clarity in your own communication.

So then, what can you do to be kind, not say more than is needed and avoid burning down bridges? Give it thought, sleep on written communication and catch yourself if you’re tempted to overly explain for your own personal reasons. While less is (most often) more, it’s not to say that it’s the easy option.


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Thank you for this
another insightful piece of advice which applies to a variety of situations.
Best wishes