“To be clear, is to be kind.”

Brené Brown

Imagine, if you will, me standing in a Florentine gelateria, armed with nothing but my broken Italian and a wild gesticulation technique I like to call ‘interpretive ordering.’ My attempt at clarity involved pointing at pistachio gelato, smiling broadly, and saying what must have sounded like, “I desire this, but like, for my stomach.”

The bemused gelati handed me a scoop of vanilla, a friendly smile, and gestured toward the exit. It was then I realized the profound truth in the adage, “To be clear, is to be kind”—and also that I might not be cut out for a career in Italian desserts.

I’ve had my fair share of ambiguity-led debacles. Like the time we posted a job opening for a web developer and ended up interviewing someone whose expertise was exclusively in adult websites. They arrived, portfolio in hand, ready to discuss the finer points of “user engagement” and “conversion rates” in a context that was worlds apart from our fundraising platform objectives. The mix-up taught me the hard lesson that job postings need to be crystal clear about the industry—lest you want to navigate the awkward waters of explaining why risqué pop-ups aren’t the kind of “engagement” your charity-focused users are seeking.

These instances serve as comical reminders that clarity is not just about words; it’s about ensuring the message isn’t so vague it becomes a Rorschach test for the listener. In the realm of communication, it seems that the path to understanding is fraught with potential missteps, where a lack of clarity can lead us astray into the realms of the absurd and the unexpected.

Yet, there’s a certain charm in these misadventures. They serve as a reminder of our shared humanity and the complexities of trying to connect across the diverse landscapes of language and personal experience. Each miscommunication, each unintended detour, serves as a stepping stone toward better understanding—not just of the words we use, but of the people with whom we share them.

In the end, the journey toward clarity is not just about avoiding the pitfalls of misunderstanding; it’s about embracing the opportunity to learn, to laugh, and to forge deeper connections with those around us.

So, as we navigate the intricate dance of communication, let’s do so with kindness, with patience, and perhaps most importantly, with a ready sense of humor. For in the quest to be understood, it is often our ability to smile at our foibles that brings us closer to the clarity we seek.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.