Providing certainty in interactions

Lately I’ve been trying hard to provide clarity and certainty in my interactions with friends, family & colleagues. This practice began last year when I was documenting email best practices for my ‘sending good emails’ post - for example, when I receive an email with an action for me, I’ll send a quick one-liner response - e.g. ‘got it - will get back to you by end of day’, or ‘noted’. As I’ve started to think more about this idea, I’ve realized that providing insight into my thought processes applies to many other situations I encounter on a regular basis and can help the person on the other end of the interaction. Some of this thinking was codified by Jerry Colonna’s interview with Duncan Morris on the Reboot podcast.   

One example of a common situation: a colleague in a professional setting poses a hard question that is going to take me a few days to work through. Rather than starring the email and revisiting when I have some headspace, or responding vaguely e.g. ‘let me think about this’, I am trying to be more specific - e.g. ‘that’s a challenging question and I don’t want to answer off the cuff - how about I think about this and get back to you by Friday? Alternatively, if you’d like my ‘gut’ reaction now, happy to provide’. 

This practice can also be applied with interactions with family - for example, if my daughter Alice asks me to play with her but I’m unable to in that moment, rather than saying ‘not now’ I’ve been trying to be more specific: ‘Lets play in 10 minutes after I do x/y/z’. Hopefully this extra bit of certainly removes any potential stress or wondering when I am going to be available, and frees her mind to focus on more productive thoughts.   

An example of this playing out in a different way is with Danny Meyer’s ‘Hospitality Included’ - removing any stress or drama about tip levels for servers by baking gratuity into the bill across USHG’s restaurants. I was moved by stories of waitstaff crying at the end of the night & would imagine it’s had a strongly positive effect on organizational mental well-being. 

Practicing providing certainty has been a nice way to apply extra empathy in my interactions, and has hopefully made the people around me a little happier.