Last year, I posted an article titled, “Let Your Yea be Yea; and Your Nay, Nay” in which I discussed the importance of clear communication from a leader. I used a negative example of a press release quoting John Chambers of Cisco Systems which was filled with very ambiguous, non-committal verbiage…or what I call “weasel words”.
Because there was a lot of positive response to that original post, I thought I would continue in that vein, but on a much lighter note. I ran across the following list a number of years ago. It “interprets” terms used in scientific or academic papers, and I found it rather humorous.
- “It has long been known”…I didn’didn’t look up the original reference.
- “A definite trend is evident”…These data are practically meaningless.
- “While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions”…An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.
- “Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study”…The other results didn’t make any sense.
- “Typical results are shown”…This is the prettiest graph.
- “These results will be in a subsequent report”…I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded.
- “In my experience”…Once.
- “In case after case”…Twice.
- “In a series of cases”…Three times.
- “It is believed that”…I think.
- “It is generally believed that”…A couple of others thinks so too.
- “Correct within an order of magnitude”…Wrong.
- “According to statistical analysis”…Rumor has it.
- “A statistical-oriented projection of the significance of these findings”…A wild guess.
- “A careful analysis of obtainable data”…Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of iced tea.
- “It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of this phenomenon occurs”… I don’t understand it.
- “After additional study by my colleagues”…They don’t understand it either.
- “Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to Cindy Adams for valuable discussions”…Joe did the work and Cindy explained to me what it meant.
- “A highly significant area for exploratory study”… A totally useless topic selected by my committee.
- “It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigation in this field”… I quit!
I work in a world of contracts, and while the author’s intent of a particular clause or sentence in a contract may have some occasional importance, what really matters is what the words in the final contract actually say, and how a judge, jury, or arbiter will interpret the meaning of those words. Similarly, what you as a leader say, and what you think you mean, may be of much less significance than what those to whom you are speaking hear. Clear, forthright, and deliberate communications go a long way to make your leadership effective.