“ooooh yeah, forgot about that.”

Words mean something. We are forever reminded of this, whether it be a tersely interpreted email, an emotional outburst at your child, or any number of recorded gaffes that become internet memes for the ages. The advent of social media as an additional communication vehicle only assures that our mistakes will be easier to share and quicker to capture.

Why, then, do we continue to fail miserably, as individuals and as a collective society? Last week, tragedies in Boston and West, respectively, were exactly the kind of events that desperately need buttoned-up communication, but we just can’t help ourselves ~ careless, hyperbolic, unsubstantiated, unfettered, and unnecessary words~ anything to fill the awkward pauses between fact and conjecture. If there was ever a time to be clear in communicating…

Than again, people in glass houses…

What’s the communication like in your company? Better yet, what’s in like in your house? None of us are without room to improvement, so here are four simple edicts I try to follow (emphasis on “try”):

  1. Be Clear
  2. Be Brief
  3. Be Sure

“Brief” and “Clear” should be no surprise to anyone…it’s the “Sure” piece that is really suffering these days. In times of great uncertainty, the combination of emotion and pressure create bad juju. False data, rumor mongering, grand-standing, and fabrication. You see the same kinds of dysfunctional communication during an acquisition, during a layoff, and during employee investigations. We are a chatty, creative bunch, aren’t we?

Yes, I realize I said there were FOUR simple edicts I try to follow:

4.  Be Quiet

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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