This is a meal, you know?
Bottom Line: I share three ways to avoid taking clarity shortcuts. My desire for clarity is often stronger than my willingness to work for clarity. The search for clarity has, at times, driven me mad. Like, pulling my hair, throwing down my pen, slamming my laptop closed, mad. I'm searching for clarity every day. Whether it's explaining my business to my parents (again), writing copy for my website, working on a keynote message, considering the best way to illustrate an idea for a blog, or providing feedback to someone during a coaching session, the need for clarity is neverending. Ten percent of the time, clarity comes easy. The other ninety percent of the time, it feels like work. This is why I'm constantly looking for shortcuts. Sometimes I don't want to do the hard work clarity requires. The telltale sign I'm looking for a shortcut? I'll say "you know?" at the end of a thought, not as a verbal tic, but as a genuine question. For me, "You know?" is code for, "I'm done trying." It's me saying, “Mmm-kay. I'm not going to try any harder to be clear. So, will you do the rest of the work for me and decipher what I'm trying to say?” Sometimes, making others work is fine. For instance, at a fondue restaurant ("This is a meal, you know?") or IKEA ("This is a bookshelf, you know?"). In those situations, we expect to do some work. As a leader or a teammate, it's not always fine to make others do our work. It's not helpful when I place the burden of clarity on someone else. Three ways I'm trying to fight against my tendency for laziness. In no particular order:
Resist the urge to fill in the silence. For me, I've noticed that I'm most unclear when I try to fill in awkward silence. If I nervously start talking and have no clue where I'm going...confusion is sure to follow.
Telegraph when I need to "talk it out" for a moment. Life isn't predictable. Sometimes you have to think on your feet in front of other people. When this happens, I've found it helpful to say something like, "I don't have a clear answer yet, so I'm going to just talk this out for a moment."
Instead of asking, "do you know what I mean?" I try to ask, “what part can I explain better?” Again, life is not a blog or a keynote message. You can't thoughtfully plan out everything you want to say at every moment of the day. You won't be 100% clear every time you communicate. This question helps me avoid making others do the work I need to do.
Clarity is costly but not as costly as miscommunication. I need this reminder often. It takes time, but it's time well invested. Give these ideas a shot, and let me know which one helps you and your team the most.