For some reason, I seem to have been caught in a number of transactions recently where ABSOLUTE precision in communication has been required. One instance involved an insurance policy and when a particular form of coverage becomes active. One instance related to a business communication that led to vendor conflict. One involved the tax authorities — whoops, should perhaps not say more about that one. Others included . . . fill in your own answer.
As someone who prides himself (a bit) on trying to be precise in communications, these circumstances all bring pause. Even casual stuff is liable to miscommunication; one never knows. Precision errors may occur either via the lack of proper breadth or the absence of sufficient depth or the lack of clarity in whatever it is you try to say. Precise communication will never be mastered.
Yet, that being said, we must communicate, so we also need some guidelines. I think, firstly, we must speak our minds when the thought and muse strikes us. Secondly, we should try to sit on that material a bit before we hit Send.
Honest communication from the heart is warranted in all circumstances, though we may change tone due to perceptions of the audience and perceived potential of misinterpretation. Perception often misjudges audiences. Perhaps the only known is that communications with bureaucracies should be entirely factual with no adjectives.
In the end, the question we need to ask of our communications is simple: do we wish to achieve an action? or, do we wish to go on record? The latter is sometimes more satisfying and occasionally is also the most effective for action. It can be cathartic, yes, and that is also sometimes justification to speak truth to power.
But, in most cases, the purpose of communications is to persuade. There needs to be a sensitivity to tone, language and empathy. Because most of our communications are attempts to persuade and not rants, it is clear why so often our communications fail: it is frightfully hard — in the end, near impossible — to walk in someone else’s shoes.