- “Socialize“: Whenever there was a new thought or idea, the team talked about “socializing the idea”. This meant for people to discuss, debate, expose people to the thought, and work together to internalize the idea.
- “Talking past each other“: Like calling a time out, either person or even someone listening would say “I think we are talking past each other”. It meant we are not talking about the same thing, or we are not getting anywhere understanding each other. It meant it was time to reset the conversation so understanding and communication could take place.
- “My ask“: Teams succeed by everyone throwing into the conversation, chewing on the options, and talking through the “what ifs”. However, sometimes the team can lose the summary, and/or not understand what the request was instead of what the suggestions or brain storming were. By summarizing the conversation by saying, “The ask is…” clears the path to know just what exactly is being sought. Clarifying by using the words, “My ask is” can be a good way to summarize and ensure something needed is not lost in the conversation.
I heard a term this week that lawyers will immediately recognize but for an engineer like me, it was new. It’s a term used in legal contracts: “…for the avoidance of doubt”. I heard that and thought, what a great way to communicate the need for clarity on a particular topic.
When we communicate there are things that are serious enough to demand the communicator goes the extra mile to ensure the “avoidance of doubt”. It is not the responsibility of the one being “communicated to” – they may not know they are about to miss a point. The onus is upon the communication pitcher not the communication catcher to ensure the point is received.
Now apply this concept to your day to day. How many emails, phone calls, meetings, and hallway conversations do you have in a given week? And in that fast paced world, how do we avoid doubt when communicating something serious?
Here are some actions I’ve used to when communicating something where “for the avoidance of doubt” is needed:
- Have the receiver repeat the message back to you
- Use multiple formats – words, pictures, graphs, verbal, or charts
- Approach the subject from more than one direction
- Explore “what ifs” ensuring the intent and motive are as clear as the content provided. Knowing ‘why’ enables people to execute to the goal and not just compliance to the direction given
- Discern which topics need the avoidance of doubt
- Own the communication. You’re the “Pitcher” – Pitch in a way they can catch
I’m sure there are more actions you can take besides these and yours may vary due to your work environment. Yet the idea remains the same. You want to communicate in a way “…for the avoidance of doubt”.