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Confronting toxic vagueness

No more beating around the bush.

In the corporate jungle, toxic vagueness is not just a nuisance; it’s a predator, lurking in the ambiguities of communication and leaving trails of confusion and frustration.

But how can you confront toxic vagueness and make clarity the norm, not confusion?

First, cut through the fog. When faced with vague instructions or feedback, don’t just nod and walk away. Ask direct, pointed questions. “What specific features do you want in this project?” “Can you clarify what ‘innovative’ means in this context?” Make it clear that generalities won’t cut it.

Second, write it down. When it’s written on paper (or a screen), you can clarify it.

Third, if you’re in a leadership position, set the example. Be clear, be specific, and expect the same from your team. If someone (really: anyone) doesn’t understand a term, enforce clarification. If required, send them back to the drawing board. Fostering a culture of clarity starts at the top.

Fourth, encourage open discussions where questions are welcomed, not frowned upon. Create an environment where clarity thrives, and vagueness withers.

Finally, address the issue head-on. If there’s a chronic offender of toxic vagueness, don’t let it slide. Bring it up in performance reviews or one-on-one meetings. Frame it constructively: “Your feedback often leaves room for interpretation, which can lead to misunderstandings. Let’s work on being more specific.”

Toxic vagueness thrives in the shadows of unspoken expectations and unchallenged ambiguities. Turn on the light. Demand clarity. Cultivate a culture where clear communication is the norm, not the exception.

The era of beating around the bush is over. Let’s get to the point!

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