Be specific in your business communication – the vague doesn’t help

Be specific in your business communication – vague isn’t helpful

Vague communication is useless. Being vague casts doubts in the people around you and reduces your credibility.

When a customer service agent answers my questions with words like, “Sounds good, I think so, or it should work,” I hang up and call back, hoping to find someone who can give me an affirmative answer. People do this to you too; they just don’t tell you.

Pay attention to your language. If the answer is yes, say “Yes”. If the answer is no, say “No”. “I think so,” she says neither yes nor no. Saying “I think so” tells people you don’t really know.

A few sentences to avoid and what to say instead:

Avoid: “It should be done by Friday.”

instead, be specific and provide an end date. “It will be complete by Friday. If I can’t do it by Friday, I’ll call you to let you know by 5pm Thursday.

Avoid: “Sounds good.”

Insteadbe specific and say “Correct”.

Avoid: “We should be able to do that.”

instead, be specific and say, “We can do this.”

Avoid: “I believe.”

instead, be specific and say “Yes” or “No”.

When I teach feedback training, the biggest thing training participants struggle with is specificity. “You are difficult to work with.” “Your clothing is inappropriate.” “I just find that you are negative.” “You did a good job on this.” “It’s a pleasure to have you on the team.” All of this is vague and therefore useless for the recipient of the feedback. And the same is true when answering questions and making promises.

Tell people exactly what to expect. Be specific. Even if they don’t like your answer, they will be happy to have a clear answer.

good communication

About Shari Harley

Shari Harley is the founder and president of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training company that is bringing back candor to the workplace by making it easier to give feedback on the job. Shari is the author of the book on corporate communication How to Tell Anyone Anything: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work. He is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training in the United States. Learn more about Shari Harley’s training programs and Candid Culture at

Tags: business communication, business communication training, effective communication, effective workplace communication, feedback training, improving business communication