We live in a world of fluff – non specific communication that leads us into infertile fields that don’t bring forth any harvests.
Nowhere is fluff more prevalent than in customer service. The amount of non usable information offered is staggering.
Let’s pretend you ask, “When will my package be delivered?” The fluff answer is “Soon.” I don’t know about you, but my daily planner doesn’t have a date called “Soon.”
Rather than this becoming a rant against customer service, I am making a plea for you and me to clean up our language so that we can have more fertile, productive exchanges.
How much fluff are you using? If you are having trouble communicating what you want, your requests are filled with fluff. If you accept fluff as an answer, you may as well say, “Please consider me as stupid as what you just said.”
I detest staff meetings, always have and always will. There is no bigger amount of fluff generated than at a meeting run by a purveyor of fluff. Here is actual verbiage from a meeting I attended years ago:
Fluffer: We really need to get going on this.
Staff Member: I hear you; we’ve got to get the ball rolling.
Fluffer: We’ve dropped this ball in the past and I don’t want it to happen again.
Another Staff Member: it can’t happen again.
Fluffer: I’m glad we’re all agreed.
That was all that was said. I’m sure you can imagine that this same topic resurfaced at many meetings in the future with no resolution.
Let’s look at the fluff. “Get going” and “this” are fluff words with no specific direction. “Get the ball rolling” = more fluff. What does that mean? “I don’t want ‘it’ to happen again.” What is “It”? What does “Agreed” mean?
Let’s do a quick unfluffy rewrite:
Our budgeting deadline is October 20th. Today is September 30th. We have 20 days to get our budget submitted. Here’s what I want each of you to do by 5 p.m. on Friday. (Give specific instructions as to what you want each to do by 5 p.m. on Friday).
One of my favorite quotes is from Werner Erhard: “The reason life doesn’t work is because people don’t keep their agreements.” As spot on as I think that observation is, I believe it would be more complete if people knew specifically what they were agreeing to.
That takes fluff monitoring.
I did a blog post on hinting last year. Hinting is filled with all sorts of fluff. So if you’re a hinter, you are a lousy communicator and will get less of what you want.
Fluff contains no direction.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I think “shooting the breeze” with a friend is a fun thing to do and most often those exchanges are filled with enough fluff to make sandwiches for the entire neighborhood. No harm, no foul – just two friends enjoying a “Fluffernutter.”
When it’s important to you to have a common understanding of what’s being communicated, that’s when fluff monitoring and fluff challenging are essential.
When you hear a fluff word like “Soon,” and it’s important to you to know when soon is, respond by asking, “When specifically is soon?” If you pretend you know when soon is, you will be disappointed when your version of soon arrives and you don’t have what you requested.
I’m not going to give you my entire dictionary of fluff. You can easily come up with your own. Just pay attention to the non specific language that you and others use. More importantly, notice that fluff rarely, if ever, delivers what you want.
It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere, a perfect time to clean up our fluff.
All the best,
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