Things I hate: Indirect Communication

I've decided to do a four part series on things I hate.

I know, shocking since I don't normally write negatively on this site. But I'm not against you. I'm against a thing others do. Never you.

We good?

Direct Communication

I've spent months working with service providers – several of them – as we completely landscape the area around our house, and add a pool to our backyard. When they communicate directly, it sounds like this:

Yes, we can add a little cave behind the waterfall. And yes, we can get the whole project done under your budget. But that little cave wasn't part of the original scope. So it won't fit under the budget. It will be extra.

Thankfully, that's exactly what I heard from the pool vendor as we were looking over estimates, scope and getting ready to sign a contract.

Why I love direct communication

I love direct communication because..wait for it…it's direct.  No brainer. But direct communication says more than the thing that's being said.

Direct communication suggests:

  • Competence
  • Intelligence
  • Confidence
  • Preparedness

When you show up to tell me that something will cost more, and you know how much more it will cost, you're telling me you've done your homework. When you can look me in the eyes and tell me why it won't be included, I know you're prepared to stand your ground because you've prepared for this conversation.

In other words, direct communication is the tool of professionals.

Indirect Communication

Indirect communication has its place. Don't get me wrong.

When you're eating at a friend's house, and your friend's mom piles food on your plate, and the steaming food is stinky and the chicken no longer looks like chicken, but instead may be turning into cheese – that's a good time to say you're full and have already eaten – all while smiling.

But when you're not in that situation, indirect communication:

  • Shows fear
  • Highlights insecurity
  • Masks a lack of preparedness

So if I wonder about some new aspect of the project, and suggest something “that would be cool,” you can either be direct, or talk like this…

Yeah, that sounds pretty cool. But of course our timeline is pretty tight. And I don't know if our budget will cover it. But it might work. I'm not sure. And I don't know what the additional cost could be, if anything.

You're not saying anything!

Be Direct, but don't be rude

As you can imagine, whether you're a freelancer or acting as an account manager, project manager, or general contractor, the goal is to be direct and state plainly what the reality is – so that next steps can be determined easily.

But that's no excuse for being rude.

The other day I was on a call where I had to explain that the scope of a project was smaller than the scope of what was desired. I've been on the other side of that conversation countless times since May when I've been the client on our construction project. And almost every vendor has been polite (yet firm). I was firm. But I wasn't a jerk.

Because all it takes is one rude statement. One indirect statement. One slip.

Yesterday I heard the all-too-common, “That's not our issue,” and I almost lost it!

So whatever you do, and in whatever context you find yourself, choose to be direct.