Do you say “stuff” and “things like that” or do you use precise language?
There are so many words to choose from. Still, people often use vague words instead of being precise about what they mean. This has the potential to cause great confusion and misunderstanding. It can also lead to conflict.
Even when you specify what “things” you intend it is easy for your audience to lose sight of the meaning. They wonder whether or not the meaning broadened or changed. Perhaps they forget exactly what you mean and start to question your intent. Ultimately they may even lose interest. Once your audience stops listening and starts trying to decipher your intent, you lose them. It is inefficient. If you don’t clarify your intent, the audience will. They will fill in the gaps with their own interpretations, changing your story – and you might not even know.
The more important the message, the more important it is you be precise. Using precise language helps your audience stay focused on exactly what you mean, enhancing your message and eliminating potential misunderstandings. You, as the speaker, bear the responsibility of accurately conveying your intent and meaning. If you make your audience guess, you generate a variety of ideas that may have no relationship to your message.
General Language Can Be Used At Times
There are times vague language is acceptable. When repeating the precise word multiple times in a short time, especially one sentence, start with the precise and revert to a vague “it” to prevent too much repetition. For example, instead of, “Take the rope in your hands, hold the rope loosely, and loop the rope over the pillar”, say “Take the rope in your hands, hold it loosely, and loop it over the pillar.”
Sparingly used, words such as “things”, “they” and “them” work. Avoid the word “stuff” (as a noun). Use vague words with intent, not out of laziness.
Precise Language Enhances Your Credibility
Being clear and making it easier for your audience follow you makes you look good. When you sound more confident, people are more likely to think you really do know your subject. This will not only eliminate confusion, it will reflect well on you.
What Does This Have To Do With Civility?
Effective communications lessen misunderstandings and associated stresses that cause problems, including conflict. If you communicate for clarity you’ll find conversations are more pleasant and productive. You’ll also find relationships are easier.