“I Should Have Been More Clear”

This phrase is one of my pet peeves. We’re all victim to it, and all ultimately help feed the cycle from time to time when we ourselves aren’t as clear as we should have been.

We must stop the madness, though. Any time you send or receive anything that later has an associated “I’m sorry, I should have been more clear”, it is really nothing more than a glorified waste of time for everyone involved. What it really means is that not only did a sender send something that wasn’t clear, but there was probably some level of interaction, work, or energy dedicated to the poor attempt by at least one other person (hence the confusion). And, ultimately, a need to go back and clarify – ultimately completing an extraneous re-work activity.

How do we battle this? Without stating the obvious (as I did recently – “proper planning prevents poor performance” blah blah), I’d like to suggest a couple ways that I’ve experienced success in eliminating confusion and avoiding “should have been more clear” syndrome:

  1. First, and perhaps most obvious, BE MORE CLEAR: this may seem juvenile of me to say, but let’s be honest – a lot of us suffer from a limited capacity to be clear and concise in our communications (avid followers of the blog probably understand that brevity is not my soul of wit, to pull in a Shakespearian reference)
  2. Second, ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT: this is a little less obvious, but organization of content, whether it’s a presentation or an email, can help quickly and succinctly convey key points or actions you wish others to take (think bullets, numbered lists, etc)
  3. Third, SPEAK WITH PURPOSE: try to eliminate any and all language (whether spoken or typed) that doesn’t help the story you are trying to tell; the words may clutter the recipient’s mind and create confusion on what action they may need to take
  4. Fourth, REINFORCE THE POINT: the saying goes “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then remind them what you told ’em”; in other words, reinforce your message or your “ask”, even going so far as referencing it in your intro and conclusion (in case your message has real estate for these)

At the end of the day, any investment you make on the front end to prepare for well-executed communications, the less time you’ll spend fixing or clarifying on the back end. So make the investment early and often to avoid confusion. And trust me, you’ll find your days are much less filled with “I’m sorry I should have been more clear” emails.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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