Story: Sometimes Words Only Diminish What You Want To Convey.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: Sometimes words only diminish what you want to convey. I’ve never forgotten this story, ever since I came across it while doing research for 40 Ways To Look at Winston Churchill. I love it so much; I get choked up whenever I think about Eisenhower’s message.

If you’d like to see a photo of the actual document sent by Eisenhower, with its single sentence, it’s here.


If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Stop talking, or, a happiness lesson from Sex and the City 2.

8 tips for finding the right thing to say in a difficult situation.

11 tips for broaching difficult subjects.

Zoikes, it’s not often that Dwight Eisenhower and Carrie Bradshaw appear together in one post.

You can check out the archives of videos here.

  • Rachel Ruhlen

    I like how after telling the story, you just stop talking. That must have been incredibly hard to do, to stop yourself from explaining why brevity is better!

  • Grandm Honey

    Have to tell you Gretchen, that ever since you have turned your weekly videos into story time I have not missed a single one. I love them all!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that! I really enjoy thinking about them and doing them.

  • peninith1


  • KatieB

    My mom always tells me that in regards to The Man and The Sea Hemingway said, “it’s just a fish story.”

  • Good point. In some cases, non-verbal communication can be more meaningful especially when people can’t find the right words to say.

  • peninith1

    Reflection–brevity and simplicity earn awe in response to Ike’s bare utterance, because the ‘mission complete’ message was such an ‘understatement’ about a long period of sacrifice, suffering and hardship, followed by a completed achievement-total surrender. An equally brief ‘mission accomplished’ claim has been made in our recent history–but it turned out not to be as resonant with incontrovertible truth. So it isn’t just the brevity and simplicity of the message that renders it so powerful. It is the actuality of the accomplishment. I have to conclude that actions speak more loudly than words, and that one is well advised to watch more what IS and what others DO than what they say or describe.

  • kfila

    Love, love, love the longer hair! (Sorry this is not an esoteric reflection… but you should know… your hair looks divine!)

    • gretchenrubin

      Awww thanks!

  • great story

  • Excellent point. That is all. 🙂