What does “shortly” mean?

When a client or customer asks when a project is going to be done, an answer offered might be, “soon” or “shortly.”

Frustration ensues.

It ensues because “shortly,” means: “I’m not sure” and “I don’t want to be responsible” and “you shouldn’t ask.” It creates little in the way of connection, and doesn’t project confidence, authority or even care.

“Shortly” is a one-word way to say, “go away.”

The alternative is to seek to understand and to work to be understood.

If the customer is double-parked, a better answer might be, “it will definitely be less than ten minutes, give me your phone number and I’ll call you the moment it’s done.”

If the engagement manager is trying to juggle priorities and dependencies, a better response might be, “would it make things easier if we could narrow down the delivery date to a two-or-three day span?”

And if the client is simply curious to understand why she hasn’t heard from you and whether you’ve got this under control, perhaps the answer is, “the dilithium crystals shorted out, the new shipment is promised for Monday and in the past, it has taken two weeks after arrival for us to complete the testing.”

It might not be done, but confidence is restored.

You sell what you sell, but you also sell the story we tell ourselves about your relationship with the work (and with us).