Communicating clearly to save time and money

 Jun 04, 2014

Say what you mean so that the other person also knows what you mean! English is a language of great subtlety, with a rich and nuanced vocabulary. Unfortunately, it is also possible to communicate in such a way that one’s words and meaning are interpreted from the paradigm of the listener, rather than what was intended by the speaker/writer. It would be wonderful if people could just communicate using concrete or specific terms, particularly in the business world where time is money, and there is no time to waste on misinterpreted messages. Take the following memo as an example:
Mary, I’d like to see an improvement on the last meeting you arranged.  I wasn’t happy with the feedback from the others, and what I’d like is your action plan by COB today. You need to make a couple more copies of the agenda and distribute the agenda sooner to all staff attending these meetings. I would also appreciate it if you could get the presentation slides to me ASAP.
Now I’m quite sure that Mary’s boss knows exactly what they meant but for poor Mary, this is a potential minefield of interpretation. What “landmines” should she be looking out for?
  • What does “improvement” mean? What is the current situation and what is the boss’ expectation – specifically?
  • Who are the “others” who’ve given feedback and what, specifically, did their feedback cover?
  • When exactly is “COB” (Close of Business)? Is it regular home time? Is it when the boss leaves? Would it not have been more helpful to express exactly what time the action plan was expected?
  • What does it mean when we say “a couple?” Two? Since it depends on the context, Mary might appreciate an exact number…you get the idea.
  • “Sooner” and “ASAP” are also open to interpretation, and it’s almost setting Mary up to fail, when this loose terminology is used.
By being specific, accurate and clear in their communication, Mary and her boss are likely to see a great “improvement!”

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About the Author:

Fee Hosking  

With over 24 years experience as a trainer, Fee is one of our most senior Professional Development trainers at New Horizons Sydney. With a professional background as a management consultant in the South African manufacturing industry, Fee brings credibility, experience and authenticity to all of the subjects that she trains. She has the ability to engage professionals from the junior to the senior level. Bringing great energy to the classroom, Fee ensures that the learning experience for all who attend is an enjoyable one, which in turn makes it a truly impactful one.

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