Which message is stronger: “Our numbers are a bit low” or “I’d like to see a 5 percent increase in our numbers this month”? Most people are likely to pick the second sentence. It’s not stronger because it’s more detailed, though that certainly helps. You could rephrase the sentence to “I’d like to see our numbers go up.” and it would still make a firmer impact because it’s more direct.
“Oftentimes, people don’t even realize they’re being indirect.”
The dangers of beating around the bush
Indirect language – statements that hint at a problem or solution without actually stating it – are a common part of the English language. It has a reputation for softening the blow, but that’s not the only reason people use it. A leader working on performance management could notice a dip in productivity, say something like “Our numbers are a bit low” and assume her employees understand that means she wants them to bring the numbers up.
Unfortunately, that message could get lost along the way. Workers might interpret that statement to mean there’s some outside factor influencing the numbers, or even that they should expect lower numbers for the time being. The more direct statement makes a stronger impression and leaves little room for confusion.
Ways to focus on clarity
If your impulse is to use indirect language, work on building a new habit. According to CRM Learning, clear workplace communication can have a big impact on employee morale, so you’re sure to see improvement if you can cut down on euphemism. Before you speak to your team about an issue, consider what you want out of the conversation. Craft a statement that focuses on the results and what needs to happen going forward.