Plain English and respect: Seth’s view

Monday’s post was meant to be the last post for the year from me, but I came across this from Seth Godin last night and felt it was such a perfect way to both illustrate what TTC stands for, and to end the year on a positive note.

I have always been an advocate of writing in “plain English“. Say what you mean in as simple way as possible, which gives the other party the best possible chance of both reading it (in the first place) and then truly understanding what you mean.  Lawyer talk (with the greatest of respect to my lawyer friends and colleagues) often puts roadblocks in the way of understanding, and creates confusion or greyness where there is no need for either.  I have long thought that the way that we used to write industrial agreements and awards was deliberately written in that style for exactly that reason — to create wiggle room rather that absolute understanding.

What I love about Seth’s piece (reproduced below) is that he links clarity of communication to respect for that person:  “Mutual respect and clear language lead to agreements that work.”  Seth writes about written agreements, but I think there is so much about this concept that can be applied more broadly to the way that communicate generally : speak your truth clearly and plainly and with respect and imagine the transformation in relationships.

So on that note, all the best for a wonderful festive season.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a safe and happy 2015.

Tammy Tansley Consulting - Change and Culture

Ps. Did you read last week’s blog on there’s no substitute for experience?


Clear language and respect

Our connection economy thrives when people understand what to expect from one another. We’re more likely than ever to engage in interactions that involve an exchange, something that deserves a specific clarification. I’ll do this and you’ll do that.

More and more agreements are being made, because more and more transactions happen outside or between organizations. The question then: What does good drafting look like?

If the agreement starts with “whereas” and continues along with, “notwithstanding the foregoing,” and when it must be decoded by a lawyer on the other side, something has gone wrong. These codewords, and the dense language that frequently appears in legal agreements, are symptoms of a system out of whack. It’s possible to be precise without being obtuse.

There’s actually no legal requirement that an agreement not be in specific, clear, everyday English. To do otherwise disrespects the person you’re hoping to engage with. There’s no legal requirement that even the terms of service for a website can’t be clear and easy to understand. In fact, if the goal is to avoid confusion and the costs of the legal system when conflicts occur, the more clear, the better.

Consider this clause, which can change everything: “Any disagreements over the interpretation of this agreement will be resolved through binding, informal arbitration. Both of us agree to hire a non-involved attorney, submit up to five pages of material to state our case, and abide by her decision.”

The best thing about this clause is that you’ll almost never need it. Mutual respect and clear language lead to agreements that work.

Seth Godin, respect, plain English

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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