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Are You a Victim of Vagueness or A Champion of Clarity?

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.


Leadership is action, not position. Donald H. McGannon

It is estimated that our brains receive information through our senses, resulting 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 is only 0.00005%. 

It is happening to you right now. I bet until I mention it now that you were unaware of the feel of your clothes on your skin. Or be mindful 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 you receive all the time, you would be so overwhelmed that you would not be unable to function. The unwanted information is filtered out through Deletion, Distortion, and Generalization. This filtering process is primarily driven by our Beliefs about how things are at that time. 

While this can be hugely helpful in preventing our brains from exploding, it can lead us to make assumptions about given situations that might not serve us well; we can quickly 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 added belief that the recipient makes the same assumptions. Our premises create gaps in our communication that we expect the other person to fill with the SAME understanding. We often do not deliver what was expected because of our assumptions. 

Here are 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, to be a Champion of Clarity, you must recognize that communication is full of assumptions. A Champion of Clarity acknowledges the pitfalls of belief both as a speaker and listener. 

As a listener, they are highly aware of the following phrase:

“The meaning of your communication is the response that you get.”

As such, a Champion of Clarity ensures their communication is fully understood.

As listeners, they recognize that they often interact with Victims of Vagueness. They take steps to avoid vagueness from a Champion of Clarity by ensuring they fully understand the intention behind the communication behind the words they hear.

Effective ways of ensuring understanding are getting sensory cues that supply 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 it has been done well?

What 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?


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