Don’t Break the 4th Wall

This is my first stand alone blog post in quite some time. This particular topic, however, has been in my head for a few weeks, I just haven’t found the time to sit down and write it out.

Do you care? Odds are, you don’t.

Why? Because I’ve broken the fourth wall and it’s distracting you from the whole point of this post.

The fourth wall is when a character in a movie, tv-show, etc. acknowledges the audience in some way. The Office did this well (because it was baked into the nature of the show), but if it is done poorly, it can be the kind of thing that detracts from the momentum in a show.

The same goes for how we manage ourselves in conversations, in meetings, and in workshops we facilitate. If you find yourself wandering down the path of explaining the inner workings of why and how we arrived at a certain point in a way that distracts from the main message, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

For example…

A few weeks ago, I was presenting and found myself off track a bit, so I started to explain how and why I chose the next activity that the group was about to participate in. It was a bit of a crutch to talk my way through some mental fog, but it didn’t serve the audience well. They didn’t need to know that I debated several other activities or that I changed my mind about it at the last minute, they just needed clear direction about how to move forward and how it would serve the overall purpose of the workshop.

Of course, there are times when breaking the fourth wall works. In the example above, had the workshop been focused on teaching others how to choose the right activities when facilitating, then breaking the fourth wall in this way would have been a great idea.

But in general, people want clear, concise, and consistent messaging with as few distractions as possible. So avoid breaking the fourth wall if at all possible, and even if you break it accidentally, just move on. Whatever you do, don’t go trying to explain how what you did was breaking the fourth wall!

Stay on message as much as possible. Save the internal awareness for the post-work analysis.

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