Ambiguity is the enemy

December 6th, 2013

One way of testing the effectiveness of your communication is to ask yourself...

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

Have you ever misinterpreted the meaning of someone’s written communication?

Of course you have, it happens to everyone. Why? Because it’s easy to make statements that contain multiple possible meanings. A large portion of the understanding we glean through verbal communication comes from body language, and word emphasis.

Take the following for example. We all “hear” written communication through whatever internal voicing’s we give the speaker. If I INTERPERATE the emphases of a word *denoted by asterisks* it completely changes the meaning of the phrase (the implied meaning in parentheses):

*I* don’t think he’s a liar (But somebody does)
I don’t *think* he’s a liar (But he could be)
I don’t think he’s a *liar* (But he’s probably something else equally terrible)
I *don’t* think he’s a liar (He’s definitely not a liar)

One way of testing the effectiveness of your communication is to ask yourself; How many different meanings could be extrapolated from my statement? Ideally your communication is so concise and exclusive to your meaning there’s only one possible interpretation. The same principle holds true for QUESTIONS; They should be formatted in such a way that they funnel all of the potential answers in the format that you are actually trying to receive back. Vague questions will receive vague answers.

Our RFI/RFP toolset, for instance, allows us to frame questions with as many constraints as necessary to receive answers with high degree of relevance and usability. Not only do we format our wording to convey our meaning properly, we can force answers to be as close ended as a simple a Yes/No button, or as open ended as an essay answer.

Ask us how we can help your business ask the right questions, and narrow the possible meanings of your communications before you hit the send button!

We look forward to your comments.

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