It is estimated that our brains receive information through our senses that result in some four billion neuron impulses per second. Of these four billion pieces of information, we are only consciously aware of about 2,000. That’s only 0.00005%.
It’s happening to you right now. I bet until I mention it now, that you were not aware of the feel of your clothes on your skin. Or, be aware of the noises in the background. Or, be aware of the object just inside of your peripheral vision. Until I mentioned them you were paying your full attention to something else.
If you had to be fully aware of all the information that you receive all of the time you probably would be so overwhelmed that you wouldn’t be able to function. The unwanted information is filtered out through a process of Deletion, Distortion, and Generalisation. This filtering process is driven largely by our Beliefs of how things are at that time.
Whilst this can be hugely helpful in avoiding our brains from exploding it can lead us into making assumptions about given situations that might not serve us well; we can easily become victims of the vagueness that we accept as fact.
To make matters worse when we communicate with others we pass on our assumptions, with the additional assumption that the recipient makes the same assumptions. Our assumptions create gaps in our communication that we expect the other person to fill with the SAME understanding. All too often because of our assumptions we do not deliver what was expected.
Here are some examples of vagueness. What assumptions are you making when you interpret them?
“Go and increase morale in the team”
“Make sure that they fully appreciate our efforts”
“Spend more time on customer relations”
Being a Champion of Clarity
First off, to be a Champion of Clarity you have to recognize that communication is full of assumptions. A Champion of Clarity recognizes the pitfalls of assumption both as a speaker and as a listener.
As a listener they are only too aware of the following phrase:
“The meaning of your communication is the response that you get”
As such a Champion of Clarity takes responsibility for ensuring that their communication is fully understood.
As a listener, they recognize that they often interact with Victims of Vagueness and they take steps to avoid relegation from a Champion of Clarity by ensuring that they fully understand the intention of the communication behind the words that they hear.
Good ways of ensuring understanding are getting sensory cues that provide evidence of the successful future desired outcome.
In response to the vague statements above a Champion of Clarity would ask something like:
“And when I have increased morale in the team, what will let you know that it has been done well?”
“What is it that will let them know that we put in effort in a way that should be recognized?”
“And when we are spending more time on customer relations, what will you see and hear?”
By Paul W. Abernathy, CMECP®