Any industry that relies on "communication" is at risk of failure, or partial failure, due to mitigated speech versus direct speech. That failure can be as simple as a missed deadline, or as catastrophic as a complete failure of the project.
There are times when mitigated speech is preferred and kinder. Sugarcoat, soften, your message if you find your mother is insisting on wearing a dress she wore 35 years ago, when she was younger and the dress was in style.
And there are times when mitigated speech is not OK. Let's say, your teen-ager is learning to drive and approaching a curve at a dangerous speed.
The most common reasons for mitigated speech include
- Age, and or age differences, of the speaker and the listener
- The experience levels of the speaker and the listener
- Relationship of speaker to listener (co-workers, manager/associate, client/contractor, etc.)
- Cultural upbringing of speaker and the listener
- Gender(s) of the speaker and the listener
Degrees of mitigated speech
- Hint (least effective)
I wonder if the client really meant to use that font.
Maybe we should re-read the technical requirements.
Do you think we should just use the font even though we are not sure?
- Team Suggestion
Why don't we wait till the next project meeting and ask about it?
- Team Obligation Statement
We need to ask for guidance before proceeding.
- Command (most effective)
We will not be able to proceed without an answer. So, I have emailed for clarification.
Breaking the pattern
Breaking a pattern of mitigated speech requires both the speaker and the listener to recognize the conversation is taking place with less than the required direct communication needed and act accordingly.
In any effective "conversation" the role of speaker and listener will, and should, change several times between the people engaged in the discussion.
The speaker needs to make sure they are using unambiguous language and that what they are saying or attempting to say IS being heard. If not, say it again.
The listener(s) needs to ensure the speaker is comfortable expressing concern, even if it is ultimately determined that concern was not warranted.
Listeners have an obligation to err on the side of caution; if there is any confusion, or just to ensure you understand exactly what was said, it is often a good idea to rephrase what you think you heard.
If the speaker and the listener are saying and hearing the same thing, the risk is mitigated, not the speech.
What this mean to us
At Infinity Interactive we embrace multiple modes of communicating, Email, IM, Group Chat, Skype, Issue Tracking System. We strive to be concise, clear, and encourage others to speak up if they feel we are not on the same page. We, with grace and humor, acknowledge when confusion arises and examine the dialog to learn what contributed to the mis-understanding—and tuck any "lessons learned" away for future reference.
Remember, if listeners are questioning what you are saying, it most likely is not them questioning your position or decision. It is more likely they are seeking clarification for something they may feel needs clarifying. Encourage active communication (speaking & listening); you might just be pleasantly surprised by what you hear!