Some lessons in affirmative communications

DR. PAVAN SONI
2 min readApr 28, 2023

I was driving by the Old Airport Road near HAL in Bangalore and spotted this signage. It reads — “Defence Land Tress Passers Will be Shot”. Now, I am sure most of you would have seen such disclaimers at prominent defense outfits warning passersby and the more adventures types to keep a safe distance and not to entertain any wild thoughts. But such warnings are extremely rare in an Indian contexts.

The more usual types are:

Trespassers will be prosecuted,

Trespassers would be arrested

No trespassing.

And the more humbler versions. But in this case, there aren’t words minced.

Trespassers ‘will’ be shot. And not arrested, or put to trial. Or, that ‘Trespassers “would” be shot’.

Such a direct communication has several benefits.

For one, it doesn’t leave much to imagination. It requires fewer words. And, above all, it allows for lower fences. You first shoot the person in the leg and then inquire as to what was the idea.

Our corporate communications almost border the legal language. By adding the ‘howevers’, ‘even thoughs’, ‘notwithstanding’, and the likes, we dilute our intents so much that they don’t count. Lack of clarity is often disguised as politeness, and resultingly, nothing much transpires. Such dialogues are replete with misunderstanding, poorly constructed and construed instructions, and even more hopeless rebuttals. That’s mediocracy written all over the place in some lofty English.

Our PPTs mask our incompetence. Our vocabularies substitute for clarity of thinking. And our attempted politeness often stink of mediocracy.

Remember, if you want work to be done, make the instructions adequately clear. No room for guesswork. Akin to the communication between two Navy SEALs or between the pilot and the ATC.

Three key ideas:

  1. Being affirmative, doesn’t amount to being aggressive
  2. Courage comes from Clarity and Clarity comes from Content.
  3. Your communication must be followed by non-cheap signals.

A clear communication can save you a lot of ensuing efforts. Hope, that is clear.

Read more on communication styles and problem solving in the book, Design Your Thinking.

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DR. PAVAN SONI

Innovation Evangelist and author of the book, Design Your Thinking.