Say what you mean

Recently a “friend” (okay, it was me) received a ticket for rolling through a red light. I know I’m not the first to protest innocence when it comes to this type of infraction, but trust me when I tell you, I did stop. So when faced with a threat to my stellar driving record, I choose to fight the power! Of course you can plead guilty and pay the ticket online from the comfort of your own home, but if you decide to contest it, you have to arrive in person at the conveniently located (sarcasm alert) provincial court house, wait with the rest of the great unwashed and complete a form to signal your intent to contest. Midway through the form is the following question: “Do you request the officer who completed the certificate of offence to attend your trial?” with the options “yes” or “no.” Huh? Is this a trick question?

After being reprimanded for using a red pen on my form, I tell the kind woman behind the bulletproof glass that I don’t understand the question. “Are you contesting the ticket?” she barks. Yes I am. “So answer yes.” Okay then. Perhaps the question should be worded differently, like: “are you contesting the ticket?” There, that’s better, isn’t it?

Think about how long the lines get in government offices, how cranky the folks waiting become and in turn, how testy the unfortunate souls on the other side of the counter grow. It’s a pit of misery.

Maybe we could reduce the level of anxiety and irritation just a little by making things simpler and clearer. Let’s start by asking straightforward questions. That goes for all of us, regardless of what kind of work we engage in, especially during change. Straightforward questions lead to straightforward answers. It’s simple really: say what you mean, and mean what you say.