We hear “fuzzy words” as I like to call them in our language all the time.
Words like “confidence” or “I’m not comfortable about it” or “It’s too difficult” and also things like “That person’s unreliable“.
Well, what do they mean by those words?
Get people to be specific when you hear a “fuzzy word” or phrase.
If somebody says to me somebody’s unreliable, I’ll say, “Oh, what causes you to say they are unreliable?”
You see, we don’t know what words mean to people and what criteria they’re using that causes them to use that word, so without asking them we’re going to apply our own meaning which could be completely different.
So, take the situation that a Managing Director may say to a Manager of an organization:
“We’ve got this important project coming up. We need three reliable staff. Get me three reliable members of the team.”
They get together once the manager has made their selection and the Managing Director says:
“I can see where you got that person but why have you got those two? They’re not reliable.”
What the manager needed to do is make sure they knew what that Managing Director means by “reliable.”
To one person, a reliable member of staff might be someone who’s on time, they’re never late, they only take an hour for lunch, and they don’t make any mistakes in their work. For someone else, a reliable member of staff may well just come down to the fact that they can always put them in front of a client and they always excel and the clients love them and we get more work.
So unless we understand what people mean when they use “fuzzy words” and phrases we can often totally misunderstand them.
When I’m mentoring people, I’m constantly saying, “And what specifically do you mean by that?” or in the above example I would say to the Managing Director “Absolutely I will get three people together, could I just ask you though, in what way do these team members need to be reliable?”
So watch out for those “fuzzy words” and phrases.
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