Confusions across communications can happen between all parties. What is the essence of this affliction? Why is it a problem? What causes it? And how does one fight it in order to achieve better outcomes?
In a recent team exercise at Moncur, we were challenged to make up words using tactics like borrowing words from another language (ex: caramel is French), merging two existing words into a compound (ex: heartbroken), or blending two words into one (ex: brunch). In doing so, I thought about recent miscommunications and project setbacks I was frustrated with and decided to name the phenomenon causing all this chaos:
confusication = confusion + communication
It’s a simple concept, really, but one that everyone in the modern workforce experiences and hasn’t yet put a name to. As a communication professional, I know that communication is an art — it takes experience, finesse, and attention to detail in order to execute effectively. And in my little bubble of the working world, I find that confusions across communications can happen between all parties — clients, project managers, creative directors, writers, designers, developers, vendors, and so on.
So, I decided to go deeper. What is the essence of this affliction? Why is it a problem? What causes it? And how does one fight it in order to achieve better outcomes?
Let’s dig in…
The Side Effects
Confusication is a hard pill to swallow and can have some severe side effects, including inefficiency, strained business relationships, lack of sanity…and occasional indigestion.
Confusication can waste time (re-work) and money (billable hours), decrease quality of work (crunched deadlines), and cost business and even employees.
How to Avoid It
As a slightly-OCD copywriter who has come face-to-face with confusication a few too many times, I’ve pulled together several tips for avoiding this common phenomenon.
Know what you’re talking about
If you are unsure what needs to be communicated, ask someone, Google it, or find some other way to figure it out in order to pass on the right information. Verify any details you aren’t 100% sure of.
Know what you don’t know
Anticipate questions your audience might have after receiving your communication and address them up front. Further, if you need information from your audience, clearly ask for it.
You can bucket, organize, and style information to make more logical and easier to consume. Bolding or highlighting questions that need answering/calls to action, creating bullet lists under categories, introducing color coding, and numbering items make communications easier to understand.
Avoid mistakes by carefully crafting communications and checking your work, write it down in a word doc first or use Grammarly to flag mistakes. Re-read what you wrote and edit it, don’t send anything until you believe it is clear and comprehensive.
Keep it short.
Only include information that must be communicated. Get to the point. Keep pleasantries and personality to a minimum.
Keep it simple.
Phrase questions and statements in the simplest way possible, avoid industry jargon and fancy vocabulary. Give it to them straight.
Make executive decisions, give clear direction, don’t provide too many options, and avoid wishy-washy answers.
Label things consistently.
When referring to a document or deliverable, use the same naming conventions and label those documents appropriately. Don’t forget to address every attachment or shared file in the communication.
Understand your audience.
Everyone has different learning and communication styles. Try to figure out how your audience best receives information and put it into that format. Make sure you provide multiple channels of communication to reach you at as well — email, office phone, cell phone, social channels, etc.
Echo your audience.
When following up on a communication to answer a question or address a request, repeat exactly what was communicated and how you addressed it. It’s a good idea to keep track of what was said and how you replied over the course of a project so you can go back and reference where things went wrong and how to avoid it next time.
We’re all humans and in the modern business world, we’re all living life at a million miles per hour. Confusication will happen—admit when it is your fault and reword or re-explain what you were trying to communicate in a different way.
And that’s it! With just a few tweaks to your communication style, you can avoid all hell breaking loose as a result of confusication.
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