Why it pays to be precise

 I know, it's that old diamond = crystal clear chestnut. But, honestly, trying to find an image that doesn't descend into cliche is nigh on impossible. Just so we're clear.

I know, it's that old diamond = crystal clear chestnut. But, honestly, trying to find an image that doesn't descend into cliche is nigh on impossible. Just so we're clear.

"Be precise." That was my dad's favourite phrase when I was growing up. Along with "life is a continuum" which, unfortunately, I've always heard as "life is a vacuum". (Sorry, Dad – can't win 'em all.)

As infuriating as it was at the time, it's proved to be sound advice. No one ever died from too much clarity, but lots of us have suffered the lack of it. Whether you're leading a team, collaborating with colleagues or negotiating social relationships, clarity makes everything so much easier.

So it's funny how often we forget about, avoid or shy away from clarity. From making clear your expectations of a new job, to being specific when you ask for feedback or setting the collaborative parameters, clarity can start to slip away. Or be shoved firmly under the carpet.

Some of that is down to assumption. It's so easy to assume someone interprets the world in the same way as you, hears what you think you've said. And that can lead to all manner of confusion and error, not to mention many a wild goose chase. As a producer I once worked with had stencilled on the office wall: assumption is the mother of all...

But some of this clarity slippage is down to sheer reluctance. Pointing out what seems obvious to you might feel unnecessary or even insulting. Stating what you do, or don't, want can be intimidating. Or, chief culprit of many a mess, make you feel bad.

So, in the short term, it's easier to keep shtum, or half say something, or just say something else instead. The problem is that a) no one will thank you, particularly if it comes a cropper, and b) the longer you leave it, the more energy you'll waste either unpicking a muddle or wishing you'd just been clear at the outset. And if clarity helps you realise the project isn't going to fly, it's far better to find that out before you've wasted blood, sweat and several tears.

Clarity isn't the same as certainty. You don't need all the answers, or to know any more than you already do. You do need to be willing. And, sometimes, quite brave. So go on, bite the bullet. Inject a dose of clarity into your day. It won't cure all ills or prevent all misunderstandings (or irritations). It might even ruffle a few feathers. But, ultimately, it'll save you both time and energy. And that's definitely worth the effort to "be precise".