Every now and then, I’ll get a request from a client to write something that clarifies some existing instructions or procedures. When I ask the reason for the clarification, I’m nearly always told that the customers or other audience just doesn’t get it. They just don’t understand. They aren’t acting the way we want them to act, or following the steps in the order we prefer.

My job then becomes crafting magic words that will transform these miscreants into conformists. And it’s nearly always a waste of time.


Why? If your audience is already failing to follow the steps you prefer, it may be because they have no reason to do so. They may not even be reading all of your instructions in the first place, and no matter how well-written my clarification may be, they still won’t do it.

A more logical approach is to change your own procedures to reflect what they’re doing. If you stop and study their behavior, it may be that they’re either unable to follow your procedure, or just not interested in doing it. If you keep trying to change their behavior, you’re only going to frustrate yourself. Instead, take the time to understand how they think and react, and reorient your procedures based on that. Both sides will probably be happier with the results.