Cast your mind back to your schooldays. If someone picked on you, did you ever say
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’?
Even back then, I thought that was complete nonsense. Our words and the intention behind them carry incredible power to edify or to discourage. Leading on from my recent thoughts about feedback, I’ve been thinking some more about the impact of our words. I’ve written before about ‘why’ – today it’s ‘but’.
My current working environment is a creative one in which many ideas bounce around, from the ‘hmm, interesting’ sort to the ‘wow, that’s amazing!’ kind. One of my clients wanted to be able to communicate her concerns about proposals without coming across as very negative. We talked about how she did that, using a bit of role play for her to demonstrate her usual response:
Ideas person: ‘Hey, why don’t we give everyone a goodie bag as they come into the show? We could put a copy of the mag in there and loads of other bits and pieces!’
My client can see the merit of this idea but has some concerns about its practicality which she knows she must raise:
My client: ‘Yeah, good idea, but they’ll have to carry it around the show all day and we’ll have missed the opportunity to capture their data…’
At this point, the ideas person is feeling a bit deflated and has stopped listening. That’s a shame because they miss the next bit …
My client: ‘… so you know what, how about we give them a flyer at the door which invites them to come to our stand before they leave where they can sign up for our newsletter and pick up a goodie bag with loads of lovely stuff to entertain them on the way home?’
My client’s ‘but’ got in the way!
Having noticed this, she’s worked on a new technique. Rather than saying ‘but’, she simply ends her sentence after the first clause, pauses and reworks the second half:
‘Yeah, good idea. You know what, how about we give them a flyer at the door which invites them to come to our stand before they leave where they can sign up for our newsletter and pick up a goodie bag with loads of lovely stuff to entertain them on the way home? Then they won’t have to carry it around the show all day and we can capture their data.’
Ideas person hears that my client’s acknowledged the idea and then come up with suggestions to make it even better. My client’s raised her concerns but kept the ideas person engaged. Everyone’s happy!
That’s a really simplistic example – however, my client has reported back that she’s been putting it into practice and it’s generating the desired result.
So today’s pebble for you to think about:
Do you need to shift your ‘but’? Or any other word?
What do you think?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?