Choose your words wisely

Don’t let miscommunication hinder productivity and harm the bottom line. When conveying a message, choose the right words and the appropriate amount of words. Follow this strategy:

  • Go right to the point. Rambling and dancing around the subject forces listeners to waste time searching for the buried message. Prevent listener annoyance and misinterpretations by saying precisely what you mean. Tip: Practice articulating difficult messages in advance.
  • Minimize the qualifiers. Hedging around the topic with words such as “maybe” and “could be” dilutes the impact and causes confusion when you bury the true message. Example: Saying “There could be a problem if we don’t get your answer by Friday” makes the message seem less important than “We need your answer by Friday.”
  • Simplify and clarify. Employees who receive unclear and incomplete instructions waste time trying to decipher the request and risk making mistakes. Avoid being terse and vague by providing the details needed to accomplish the task. Example: Saying “I need information on the Jones account” fails to reveal specifically what information you need and when you need it.

— Adapted from “Assertiveness and Direct Communication: Your Wording Is a Critical Productivity Tool,” Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro,

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