Be precise, be specific and be blunt

I‘ve just asked you not to over explain, so this may seem a little contradictory. But, please, please, be precise, be specific and be blunt:

  • start a conversation with a little background – for example, say “Eric, remember last Friday when we discussed…”
  • always use names instead of pronouns – say “Jack wrote it” not “he wrote it”
  • use titles instead of nouns – say “I read The Cat in the Hat” not “I read a book”
  • use dates – say ”Thursday September 8th” not  “next week” or “next Thursday” or “very soon”
  • use real-life examples to illustrate instead of speaking in generalities
  • provide links or copies of any text you refer to
  • speak your mind, politely but bluntly – take a stand

Why? I don’t know what you were thinking 10 seconds before you started talking. I don’t want to guess what you’re referring to, I want to know. And I want to know without asking you. It’s not efficient or fun for me to ask you what you’re talking about. So please give me the material I need to follow along – give me names, titles, dates, links, documents, and examples!

I speak schmooze, spin, evasion, bull, and plain old common senseAnd please be blunt. Subtlety is a costly habit. Half the time what you thought you said was not heard. The other half, you’re perceived as timid or manipulative. Speaking directly may be a little uncomfortable for both of us, but it’s an unavoidable side of life and business.  Not addressing the difficult issues and not asking difficult questions allows issues to fester and grow and breaks trust. Show you care by telling the truth clearly and politely.

Confusion is expensive and demoralizing and avoidable. It always reflects badly on us whether you’re the culprit or the victim or we’re working as a team to create confusion. Is that clear?

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  • Lauren Colella

    This was a very informative article. In starting a professional conversation, there’s a lot that you have to conciously think about in speaking to a superior or coworker. Ensuring that you use names instead of pronouns, and exact dates as to when things happened increases your credibility and allows for a lessened chance for a misunderstanding. Politely speaking your mind allows for your message to get across, without stepping over any boundaries. I currently work in the Undergraduate Office of Admissions at my school, the University of Central Florida, where I have to communicate with my boss in order to successfully complete what’s expected of me. These aspects all allow for this communication to make both of our jobs easier, and effective.

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About the author

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In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at LatPro.com. Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of JustJobs.com. He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.

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