I’m a strong advocate for specificity. (Wow, that word is a mouthful. Spesss-if-issss-ity. Did I even use it correctly? I hope so. Good thing I don’t have a lisp.)
I learned the phrase “be more specific” from years of watching my favorite game show. I mean, you can’t just respond to a clue about British royalty without telling Alex Trebek the king’s name and number, after all. (Do you know how many Georges and Edwards ruled back in the day? Neither do I, but I’ll bet it was a lot.)
Being vague leaves lots of room for misinterpretation. There are times, however, when being too specific can cause problems. (Like, for instance, my predisposition to being too specific with observations. Side effects can include mental anguish and brain implosions.)
However, I still believe it’s better to be overly and accurately specific. Never underestimate someone’s ability to misinterpret vague requests.
Do you like a good BLT? I know I do, but I’m not crazy about mayonnaise. In fact, I’m not crazy about putting much of anything extra on my burgers, sandwiches, or BLTs, and I’m always met with skepticism by the person on the other side of the restaurant window when I request NO mustard or NO ketchup. (I like what I like, so I’ve learned to deal with it.)
So, when I tried to order a BLT without mayonnaise once at a fast food restaurant, I expected questions, but I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with them. I was in a hurry, so instead of being accurately specific, I ordered with brevity and simplicity in mind.
I used the word “plain.”
Server: Can I take your order?
Me: Yes, I’d like a plain BLT, please.
Server: One PLAIN BLT? Plain?
Me: Yes, please.
Server: O…kay. That’ll be right out.
Well, they did indeed leave off the mayonnaise…and the L, and the T. It was a good bacon sandwich, although it was…missing a few other key components.
I learned a little something that day about being accurately specific. The sandwich was okay, but it needed a little TLC…or, more specifically, L and T.
Be more specific.