Inspired by this blog post I thought I’d post my reply here.
Basically to summarise, if someone misunderstands your instructions then don’t blame them because you probably could have reworded your instructions to be more clear.
When I used to run an accounting software software business, if my helpdesk staff complained that the customer didn’t understand them and did something wrong etc, I’d say “you need to improve how you communicate to them then so there can be no misinterpretation”. For example, if you say “Shut down the PC”, a large % of shop workers will just press the off button, they won’t use the Windows Start menu to shut it down properly. Also if you say “close the server” meaning the “server program”, they will just power off or shut down the server PC. So the correct wording was very important to get the correct action, save time, and avoid frustration.
By the way, I had done every job in the company at some point so was experienced in the various pitfalls – thus I knew that my advice worked. I wanted my staff to feel comfortable listening to my advice because they knew that I had actually been there and done that. Formulating a theory of what might work is all very well but there is no substitute for direct experience. As my Aikido sensei says:
“A picture paints a thousand words, but an *experience* is worth a thousand pictures”