There is simply no substitute for the truth. That said, how do you measure a person’s positional conviction? How do you know if someone is sincere in their communication? How do you know if you’re being told the truth, or just being spoken to in a manner designed to elicit a desired response? Listen to what’s being said…When attempting to evaluate the shifting sands of fluid messaging, or what I like to refer to as spin, examine the choice of words used in the composition of said messaging.
I have long believed that words matter. My experience has consistently shown that astute people listen carefully to the words a person uses in evaluating the constancy and sincerity of their message. If the strength, color, or tenor of an individuals nomenclature changes, common sense would dictate that the underlying message may be changing as well.
Perhaps I’m a bit old-school in my thinking, but in my world form over substance doesn’t get you very far. Call something what you will, but the facts remain the same regardless of how you choose to describe them. Those of you that know me have come to understand that I prefer to cut to the chase, and get to the root of an issue as quickly as possible.
While I appreciate the great oratory skills of those who communicate using wonderful word pictures, or the academics that can wax eloquent while always using best form of prose, I prefer my business communication to be quick and dirty. In the immortal words of Jack Webb: “The facts ma’am…just the facts.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not word bashing as I enjoy and appreciate anyone who has command of a great vocabulary, but I don’t have time for a 30 minute explanation of something that could have been, and should have been, communicated in 2 minutes. Ah, the lost art of brevity, but I digress.
What all of us need to remain on guard against are the people (notice I didn’t say professionals) that always seem to speak at the 30,000 foot level. A high-level overview is fine as a summary, but certainly not for anything beyond that. Vocabulary should be a tool for communicating expertise, and not masking a lack thereof. Let’s define what I call the black-art practices of confusion:
1. Job security by confusion: Have you ever had an employee in a particular business unit or practice area paint the picture that things are soooo complex that only they can solve your problem? Nothing is too complex to be explained or understood, and no single individual is invaluable. Real knowledge should be transparent, transferable, and heavily leveraged, not horded or kept in isolation.
2. Sales by confusion: Have you ever been party to a sales presentation that was so sophisticated and technical that you arrived at the conclusion that: “surely these guys really know their stuff”; and as a result ended-up purchasing something that wasn’t at all what you thought it would be? Remember, if someone can’t explain the benefits to you in plain English, then the benefits probably don’t exist. The best communicators use clear and succinct statements, that are factually based, and that add value. They are never vague or ambiguous.
3. Intimidation by confusion: We’ve probably all had someone attempt to steamroll us at some point in our careers…multi-syllable techno jargon used in circular conversational patterns with an authoritative posture doesn’t mean someone knows what they’re talking about, rather it usually means they are attempting to dazzle you with feigned brilliance in an attempt to intimidate. Remember that opinion doesn’t miraculously become fact simply by adding emphasis.
So, what is the best way to deal with the black art of confusion? Force people to justify their positions by being specific. Make these wizards’ of confusion give you examples of relevant experience, or have them explain their business logic in understandable terms. Make sure that your client’s, vendors, suppliers, partners, investors and employees all know that you value clear, concise, lucid and accurate communications.
Bottom line…say what you mean, mean what you say, and require the same of others.