Category Archives: How To Be Assertive

Tweak 2 Letters And Change Everything

Planning 2018 for how and where you are NOW

“Mind your Language” is a great piece of advice, truly mind it. Think about it. Think about the effect it has on you and then on those around you as you use it. As a self-confessed WordNerd it’s one of my passions that my clients really “get” how important the words and phrases are they choose and then use. If you already have a sense you could be more influential, more engaging and inspiring to other people, then changing and updating your ‘script’ transforms the way you connect with people.

A few years ago, I read an article by John La Valle http://www.purenlp.com/ and John is, I believe, a true word-nerd. A real wizard with the use of language and the difference it makes. He wrote an article about changing our New Year’s Resolutions and swapping them for New Year’s Evolutions.

Every year when someone asks me “so Kay, are you making any New Year’s Resolutions?” I take John’s advice and tell them “yes, but I make New Year’s Evolutions”.

Think about the word Resolution – looking in my trusty dictionary, it means “a firm decision to do or not to do something. The action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.”

When you pull it apart, re-solution becomes a solution, redone. You know when you say it there’s a bit of resistance there. Something you should be doing as opposed to something you want to do. Something you’ve tried to do before and are trying to do again.

It’s so common to make a resolution to eat less, exercise more, spend less, save more, work less, be with family more – or sometimes the opposite! You get the idea, though.

Now, think about the word Evolution – When you think of planning and committing to New Year’s Evolutions, there’s a different feel, a different energy about them with that word. Again, from my trusty dictionary “Evolution – the gradual development of something. Current senses stem from a notion of “opening out” and “unfolding” giving a rise to a general sense of development”. Open yourself up to who you are now and what you want, now.

Now with the word Evolution (remember, we only tweaked 2 letters) there’s a more forward motion to it, more of a sense of “Ok, for where I am now and for how I’ve developed now and what I want in my life now, this is what I want for my life in 2018”.

Try putting down 5 New Year’s Evolutions for yourself and before you do, take a moment with these 5 steps to think about how you are “opening out”, “unfolding” and “developing”.

  1. Think about how your life was 2 years ago – at the beginning of 2016 – then think about what’s going on now and how things have evolved for you.
  2. What are the major changes that have happened? (pssst – there will be some major changes, I promise you. It’s one of the few things we can guarantee in life, that things change. We choose how we respond to those changes.)
  3. Next, consider what’s happening in each of these areas of your life – home / work / relationships /career / finances and ask yourself “what do I want to have more of AND less of in these areas now?”
  4. Here’s where your “New Year’s Evolutions” start to form. From where you are now, for the person you are now, for what you’re doing now.
  5. Put down the following words and then finish the sentence at least 5 times “For who I am now and what I want now, in 2018 I will….”.

So, with two letters tweaked your Resolutions have become your 2018 Evolutions. Oh, and even if you don’t think you’ve changed much, around you the landscape will have, you industry, market, colleagues will have. That changes you anyway. How have you evolved though, that’s the question?

As Oprah Winfrey says: “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.”

 

Do you ride your emotions?

Or are you at their mercy?

It was the start of a meeting with a potential new client. We sat discussing what was going on with his team and why some of the key people were avoiding communicating with each other. Let’s call him John, he said something along the lines of ‘well, we’ve brought you in Kay because it’s probably all about the touchy, feely stuff and I don’t do that’.

‘You don’t do that?’ I said, risking, I suppose, being shown the door, ‘You don’t do that? Everyone does that John, everyone does that all the time, it’s what it’s all about.’ I thought to myself his words gave me a huge clue as to why there was such a disconnect in this team.

When someone explained to me once how emotion can be defined as ‘energy-in-motion’ it took on new meaning, one that really makes sense and, to all those ‘oh, I avoid the touchy-feely stuff’ out there, think about emotion like this – it’s ‘energy-in-motion’. Your energy, at any given moment, can change to another energy and you behave differently. Something else happens and, depending how you decide to react to it – notice I said ‘how you decide’ – then your emotional state changes again.

As you go through your day, start noticing your own emotions and, crucially too, others’ (they’re on display, you just have to notice them). As you become more and more aware that emotion is driving everything, and everyone, you’ll be able to understand so much more about other people and so much more about yourself.

Here’s a typical scenario that plays out every day, everywhere for someone, somewhere with the emotion in brackets.

Rushing to a meeting to avoid being late (excitement, fear) you arrive just as the meeting’s starting (anxiety, embarrassment). As you grab a coffee and your seat (relief, anticipation) you’re asked a question (surprise and fear again). Someone else chimes in to help you (relief and surprise) and you also gather your thoughts and add your opinion (relief and anticipation). The meeting carries on and you notice yourself relaxing (contentment and trust) and you’re asked to be involved in a new project (surprise and joy). You know it’ll be hard work with a lot riding on it and you say ‘yes, great’ (anticipation, fear, joy) and you all agree to meet again in two weeks to update everyone (anticipation, trust, anxiety). Off you go to your desk and pick up the phon e to tell your partner about this opportunity (excitement and surprise mixed with anxiety).

Can you ‘feel’ just from reading the above, how much energy-in-motion is going on for you, just in that meeting?

We are constantly shifting and changing gear with our emotions and the more we understand about how they affect us, and those around us, the more we can start to take notice of where we are in our emotional journey.

We’re all in an emotional state, all of the time. The trick is to notice which emotional state we’re in – relaxed, excited, angry, frustrated, sad, happy – and to know that we are moving in and out of these states all the time. We must then decide and find which state is the most helpful, appropriate and resourceful for us to be in, given what’s going on around us. We do have a choice though and when we accept that we can no longer say “Oh, he makes me so angry”. He doesn’t. You decide to be. Byron Katie, one of my spiritual mentors said, in context with minor irritations and day to day conflict “No one has the power to upset me. I do that.” Enough. Said.

Extracted from ‘E is for Emotion’ from The A to Z of Being Understood by Kay White.

Slow Things Down and Save Time

Respond rather than react (and save precious time, money and energy)

Slow down to speed things up. Yes, I know – it’s a dichotomy (a polar opposite, a contrariety) to say you have to slow down to speed things up. Well it’s true.

So often we think we have to decide on the spot; say “yes” or “no” in the moment and know all the answers to the questions we’re asked. Well, we’re actually making things harder for ourselves and harder on ourselves if we believe that to be true. Hitting things back like a tennis ball over the net isn’t a strategy – it’s more like survival and it wears you down.

I’ve learned we think faster than we think. It’s worth saying again to remind us both – we think faster than we think. Our brain processes the question; the decision; the issue in front of us quickly.

What we do is assume that we have to always be thinking on the spot and just because we’re asked a question we have to know the answer; respond straight away or act immediately. Well, we don’t. Even if we do know the answer, we don’t have to commit ourselves straight away. We can buy ourselves time and find subtle ways to make the other person wait – even if it’s for just a few seconds.

Clients say, particularly women, one of the big struggles they have when they’re promoted or as they take on more responsibility is the feeling of fear of having to know all the answers; of “making the right decision on the spot”. Well, “hello”- firstly who does know all the answers? Secondly, who knows what the right decision is? Only time tells us that. We make decisions taking into account what’s going on at the time; the information, insight and instinct we have and then, we wait to find out how it pans out.

It’s liberating – certainly it is for me – to know that you don’t have to know all the answers and you don’t have to do everything or decide everything “now” – even if it would suit others if you did.

kay whitePeople waste so much time, money and energy – our three most precious resources – by rushing into decisions; responding to emails in “shooting from the fingertip” mode; being asked questions and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

Clearing up or back-tracking from rushed decisions or responses just slows us down.

Here’s just 3 of the many ways to slow things down to speed things up for yourself when you’re asked a question:

  • Repeat the question. Say it back to the person in a way that sounds thoughtful (it is) so you and your brain can process it. It also has the added bonus of making sure the person asking the question is actually asking what they want. (This is a great tip for interviews by the way).

  • Ask the person asking what they think first. You can literally say “hmm, now before I tell you what I think, what do you think?” This is especially powerful for someone working or reporting to you – why not make them do the thinking first?

  • Ask another question. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Rather than answer what you’ve been asked; ask a few more questions about the background to the question to get clearer and, again, to buy you and your brain a few more seconds before – and if – you decide to answer. Pause.

Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?

As a strategic, savvy businesswoman, give yourself a bit more time and space to plan your reply. You know more than you think you know and sometimes, a few extra seconds to think about it gives you the chance to really show it.

Be a 5 year old again. I dare you.

A quick question to get to the heart of what’s going on.

This was one of a few key questions I asked a group of CEOs and senior directors I worked with recently as we focused on communicating with influence. This question, as basic as it sounds, really helps people boil down what’s actually going on and separate it from the “stuff”. It’s one of the secrets of great communication – keeping things simple.

Here’s the question. “If I was only 5 years old and you had to explain this to me, what’s going on?

It took quite a bit of head-scratching (and a few laughs too) to translate some of the expressions below into a 5 year old’s language.

Confusion and unease – not to mention boredom – is often the main result of rambling on using a combination of too much detail AND corporate “gobbledygook” or BS. Listeners/readers tune out, switch off and often miss vital bits of information as it’s wrapped up in “blah” language – which actually confuses the person saying/writing it too!

We worked with the KISS principle – Keep It Simple and Straightforward. Leonardo de Vinci himself said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and it’s true. Anyone you think of as a great speaker or inspiring leader communicates in simple, clear, accessible language as much as possible. Translating the “blah” language when they can.

Encouraging clients to use clearer and more “down-to-earth” language, as part of their day-to-day emails/presentations/meeting messages is just as important. This is one of the questions I often ask to get clients to the nub of what’s going on. You build it up from there but it gets you to the core of the message. If you don’t have a 5 year old in your life to use as a reference, remember you were a 5-year old yourself.

We worked on the following expressions together and we came up with a variety of translations for a 5 year old to understand:

  • Key Performance Indicators (ways of being able to tell how you’re getting on)

  • Optimisation (making the best of things)

  • Strategic implementation (doing things we’ve said we will do in our plan)
  • Blue-sky thinking (having big, different ideas)

Once you’ve boiled the message down to this 5 year old sort of language you can then start building it up a bit BUT still keep the essence in there.

The group all agreed that the corporate “lingo” is necessary at times – legal language, corporate messages that are already being used – but to use the “if I were 5, what’s going on?” or “if I were 5, what are we talking about?” with your colleagues, team – even clients is a really powerful question. Trust me.

I asked this question to a recently-promoted Director when she was gradually going cross-eyed trying to explain the twists and turns in a story about her team. Along the lines of “the KPIs are all being missed because no-one’s interacting in a strategic way and we’re out of alignment because there’s unrest amongst the troops”. Crikey. “Excuse me, if I were 5 years old, what’s going on?” I actually said that.

After looking at me with a combination of shock and bemusement, she had to sit for a while to be able to boil this down. I said “I don’t understand KPIs, strategy, corporate stuff ‘cos I’m only 5”.

Finally, after quite a lot of head-scratching, we knew what was going on. She told me “some naughty people are playing some nasty games ‘cos they think we’re going to take their toys away”. NOW you’re talking. Now we can brainstorm ideas together.

  • Try this question.
  • Try it on yourself if no-one else and, I dare you…
  • Try it with your colleagues/team/clients

You’ll help yourself AND your colleagues to get to the core of what’s going on, and you can start to understand together from the same place.

If you need any more encouragement, try some from Albert Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

How often are you up close – and personal?

There’s no substitute for the ‘LIVE’ or personalised version of You

It’s easy to get lulled into this false sense of reality isn’t it?

Instead of picking up the phone to speak to someone, you drop them an email or send them a message or a text. Instead of dropping someone a note, you can instant message, Skype message or send them an eCard. Instead of going to a networking event, social gathering, exhibition or event, you can show up online. All of these ways of being in touch, of showing up on the radar, are virtually instant and take very little effort. They work too, to an extent. There’s also a darker side too, a sense of disconnectedness.

What I also know to be true is this. There is nothing like being there in-person, in-the-room and pressing the flesh with other people. The energy, the sense of connectedness, the opportunity to take yourself out of your environment and put yourself in another, all adds to the mix and what comes out of that is so very different than being ‘virtual’.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to enjoy, leverage and actively revel in all the gizmos and ways of working with people virtually. It’s something I’ve come to love about working in this ‘small world’ way. Working with a client who was based in Melbourne and mentoring her to navigate herself successfully to a promotion proved the point. We never met and are unlikely to.

What is often underestimated though is how disconnected we can feel and be perceived, when we take ourselves, our personalised selves, out of the mix too much and too regularly – often without necessarily being conscious of it.

Let me ask you a few quick questions.

  • Have you ever emailed someone who’s in the same room/office as you because you can’t face or make time to go across and speak to them?
  • Have you ever emailed someone instead of calling them as an easy ‘get out’?
  • Have you ever texted someone a ‘round robin’ Thank You note instead of either calling or writing them a personal note?
  • Do you find yourself sending an ‘Apologies’ meeting alert rather than calling the person to say you can’t attend?
  • Have you ever wished you’d met up with someone in person sooner rather than wasting time going back/forth on email?

I know, like me, some – or all – of your answers will be a ‘Yes’. I ask myself, just before sending an email or text, is this the best way to be in touch today?

Clients constantly tell me that they can’t “get people to do what they want them to” or they struggle to get people to respond to them. When pressed, it’s often because they lack connection with the other person/s. That’s where the secret of ‘pressing the flesh’ or personalising can change things in an instant.

You don’t have to spend your life bouncing around the world on planes or being so busy going to meetings or writing notes you never give yourself time to implement or think. No, of course not. I don’t either.

Here are a few starters for you if you decide to show up ‘personally’ more than you are.

  • When you go to email someone, pick up the phone and call instead. Even if you leave a voicemail and send an email afterwards, you connected, you made the effort. They hear your ‘real life’ voice. It means something, to them.
  • Instead of sending an RSVP by email – call or drop a personal, hand-written note instead. Your voice, your writing all counts more as you being ‘in person’.
  • When you look at an invitation and think “No, too busy” – just ask yourself “How can I make it work so I can go?” so you let people see you and be with you, even for some of the time if not all of it, as you with them.
  • When you do decide to show up in person, instead of hanging with people you know, challenge yourself to meet and greet at least 5 people you’ve never met before. You only have to be open to asking them a few questions and, off you go!
  • When you’re with other people, be more interested in them, rather than being interested in them being interested in you. That’s where the true magic is – they magically become more interested in you anyway – aha!

Daniel Goleman who wrote the transformational – and much quoted – book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ says “When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”

I believe he’s right. A big piece of that is coming forward to make a personalised – not impersonalised – connection. Go on, I dare you.

How & Why To Take A Chance on Yourself

Say “Yes” before you’re ready and then get ready…

There are so many ways to say something and every way means something different to your listener as you say it. Imagine you’re in a meeting and someone asks if anyone is able to take on a new project or put some figures together. You think to yourself, ‘I could probably do that’ but you may sit on that thought and say nothing and wait for someone else to offer or you may put yourself forward. The trick here is, if – or let’s say when – you do decide to step up and offer, it’s how you put yourself forward.

To use assertive, positive language when you’re going about your business sends a message, very clearly, to those around you that you’re someone who gets on with things and who can be trusted to do things.

A lot of people struggle with the difference between coming across as aggressive instead of assertive. Assertive is ‘self-confident, self-assured, firm’ and aggressive ‘hostile, belligerent, forceful’ and there’s a different energy about the two, of course there is.

As a savvy communicator, you’re going to be far more effective if you come across as clear, firm and self-confident as you go about your business, rather than belligerent or, almost worse, wishy-washy using indecisive language. It casts doubt.

Say ‘Yes’ before you’re ready is about trusting yourself and working out the details as you go. Not waiting until you know everything. By then, normally, someone else has jumped in and you’re still getting ready to get ready.

One of my friends used to say “When opportunity knocks, grab it by the forelock because the back of its head is bald”. Say “Yes” and work it out, get help and guidance, find out more – as you go.

So, you could offer to help on this new project in so many ways and depending on how you say it, your message lands differently:

  • I suppose I could do it’ – I suppose meaning I might be able to, if pushed. I could meaning I can, but I’m not saying I will
  • I might have some capacity to do it’ – I might doesn’t mean to say I will
  • I’ve got enough on my plate’ – unhelpful, defensive, bordering on stroppy
  • I’ll try to do it’ – I might be able to do it but I’m not really sure I’ll be able to
  • Leave it with me. I’ll do it.’ – I’m able to do it and I will do it << Yes, I’ll do it.

We all know which one of those simple phrases gives the most reassurance, gives the most credibility and which one you’d want to hear if you were asking for help. There’s a completely different energy about the last phrase – you can feel that the person saying it is capable and certain.

Being more assertive as you respond positions you with other people as someone who’s confident of their abilities, someone who can get things done, put forward for interesting projects, promotions, and then gets promoted.

Those 7 words ‘Leave it with me. I’ll do it’ will raise your game.

Hedging your bets with ‘might be able to’ will only put doubt in other people’s minds about whether you will or won’t and whether you’re capable. Someone else may get the chance and not you.

When you put yourself forward to do things you become someone who offers time, help and input, and to make it most effective for you use assertive, positive language. Leave as little doubt in people’s minds as possible.

I’ll leave that with you.

 

It Starts With Your First Ask – (However Faltering)

Practicing the muscle which takes you further, faster. Your ‘ask’ muscle.

With palms sweating and my heart thumping I read it through one more time. All my notes seemed to blur together as I thought about stating my case for something I was passionate about – but doubted I had the courage for. We’ve all been there haven’t we? “If only I could… but then I’d have to put myself out there” – that feeling.

So, in I went.

My boss was sitting at his desk absorbed in something and, as he often did, was breathing a bit like a bull ready to charge. I kept walking in. A bit as if I had to be pushed.

He looked up. “So, what is it you want to talk about Kay?” – and, in faltering French, with an accent which clearly needed some polish, I told him that I wanted to go to work and live in France, to work out of our Paris office and to be able to negotiate in French. I told him all this in French. And, I told him, I wanted him to sponsor most of it.

He stopped me just as I’d got going. “Ah, no Kay, you don’t use the formal ‘Vous’ with me, we know each other, use Tu/Toi with me”. What? I hadn’t practiced that version. My French teacher, Roxanne – yes that really was her name – had assumed I’d be formal with my boss.

I started again. “Alors, je voudrais presenter quelque chose a toi” etc. Good grief, as if it wasn’t hard enough already. Anyway, I stuttered through it with my brain doing somersaults trying to catch up.

Looking back I suppose I could have just asked him in English. I could have explained all the reasons why it would be great, how I’d be able to contribute, how it would boost relationships with our Paris office etc. But that wasn’t a stretch and, as I’d learned working with him, he was someone who admired ‘chutzpah’ – to make a case for this dream of mine, I needed to show how I’d already committed to it with my own version of chutzpah.

What was so interesting about this approach was how it elevated me in his eyes, and in my own. He told me “that was a brave thing to do” and “what are you prepared to commit to make happen for the business do if we make this happen for you?”. I switched to English here….

As a result of this request which was an ‘ask’ with so many ramifications, I did go to live in Paris for 6 months, paid for by the company. I had private tuition, lived in a cute studio in a great part of Paris and worked for the company, negotiating and contributing and representing London – and making many people laugh with my errors.

But here’s the thing. The initial ‘ask’ was just the start. The stretching and learning continued throughout the whole experience but the initial ‘ask’ taught me 3 key lessons. Lessons to help you stand out at work – and get the ‘Yes’ you’re hoping for.

Working with ambitious, and often frustrated career women as I do now, these lessons guide my work. I often ‘dare’ my clients to do the thing they think they can’t. Calculated risks, saying “yes” before you’re ready, taking action and working it out as you go – it’s a surefire way to accelerate your progress, and boost your income, at work.

The 3 key lessons:

  • Be Memorable. Rather than the off the cuff approach, think and plan our approach and make it interesting.
  • Be Audacious. If you want X, Y & Z – ask for them all. You may be thrilled with just X & Y but if you ask for everything, you can always negotiate. Be prepared to give a little away and still get what you want.
  • Be Brave. I could have sent a note, asked one of my French colleagues to suggest it but that wouldn’t have worked in the same way. I wasn’t showing my commitment in the same way.

 

The Power of the C Word

Choose your words wisely.

Your words have power over you and what you think about – and the same applies to those who hear you – if they listen to you of course.

When you’re asked to be present at something, if you can make a date or if you have time to do something I wonder if you use the C word I want to recommend to you? Stay with me here.

One of my clients taught me – and herself – this valuable lesson. She was always referring to having ‘conflicts’ in her diary. The word conflicts implies a struggle, a clash, some thing to manage.

As she took a sharp breath in she said “I’m referring to picking my precious children up from School as a conflict. What’s that about Kay? It’s not a conflict, it’s a commitment.”

A commitment. Now there’s a difference.

This C word – commitment – has a whole different energy about it. Something’s fixed. It’s a promise. It’s happening and it’s important to you. What’s interesting %$firstname$% is how other people treat your commitments too. They’re less inclined to expect you to bend them or replace them.

–     “Thanks for including me but I have a conflict then. Sorry.”

–     “Thanks for including me. I already have a commitment at that time so when else works?” for example.

Notice the difference? The ‘conflict’ word can invite you to apologise or feel guilty that you have some thing else in your diary.

A commitment doesn’t. You may still want to or be asked to reschedule. I get that and yet, you’ll probably find less people expect it of you and you’ll feel less inclined to offer it.

It’s all about perception and the words you choose to use often say more about you than the order you put them in.

  • Do you have problems or challenges?
  • What about failures or maybe they’re lessons?
  • Do or try to do?

As that great philosopher Yoda said “Do or do not do. There is no try.”

Now that’s a commitment.

Stop Saying Sorry

Especially if you don’t really mean it.

“I’m so sorry, Oh sorry about that , hey there sorry to bother you, Oh, sorry it’s only me” – and on it goes. Saying sorry when, in truth, we don’t really mean we’re sorry —it’s often more about something to say than necessary and it’s a slippery, dangerous slope if you want to be taken seriously at work.

When I sat with a client, let’s call her Hilary, for the first time, we talked about what she thought was going on which meant she felt so stuck, so undervalued, so small – as she said.

As I sat with Hilary that first meeting, I quietly noticed how many times she said ‘sorry’ – it was about 15 times in the first explanation of her career history and after a while I was conscious of listening less to the story and the details and listening more for the number of times she said “Sorry”.

Because here’s the thing – it wasn’t that she was actually sorry, she didn’t need to apologise to me for anything, it was more that it was a habit and it was something to say. Nerves and habit. I knew that before we could go anywhere with her being more assertive or being more confident in any other areas, we needed to address the sorry word.

Unless you truly are sorry, you’ve made a mess up or upset someone and want to apologise, my advice is to avoid the word. At best it’s irritating for the other person as they start to count or wonder what’s wrong with you or at worst, people start to question your abilities and whether you believe you’re any good or worthy of things if you constantly apologise.

“Sorry but” or “Sorry no” or “Sorry to say” actually does 2 things in the moment – it tells you something’s up, that I think something’s not right and you actually can put people on the defensive or on the look out for some bad news.

There is a gender thing going on here too and it’s worth noting. As women, we’re hard-wired to keep the peace, to help relationships flourish and we don’t like, as a rule to upset people. It’s often why so many women shy away from conflict.

I want to invite you to watch and notice if and how other people apologise and the effect it has on you.

  • Notice if it is just something to say OR if they genuinely mean it. Also, notice yourself – if you don’t really mean it, you’ve just got the feeling you need to say something, then just stay silent.
  • Pause. Take a breath and here’s something else to say instead. Say “thanks.” Thank you.
  • Instead of ‘Oh, sorry for interrupting’ you can say “thanks for sparing me a moment” or instead of saying “Sorry if I’m going on too long” you can say “thanks for giving me your attention a little while longer”.

No apology, just you with your view or your request which is just as valid as everyone else’s and that’s where you become a more effective, confident and comfortable communicator. It’s also when you know that what you have to offer and share makes a difference and has value. No apology needed.

 

Are You “Should-ing” All Over Everyone?

3 Easy Ways for People to Take On Your Advice

 

“Now, what you should do is…” “Well, it’s obvious, you should do this, then you should do that and then you should tell them you’ve done it”.

Should do. What you should do and what you want to and actually do are often very different things. Even if the advice we’ve been given is spot on, the fact that we’ve been told we ‘should’ do it is often the very reason we don’t. So if that’s the reaction we have, it’s the reaction that others will have when we ‘should’ all over them. Hmmm.

There’s something innately irritating to be told we should be doing something. It implies – this is the subtle, savvy part to understand – it implies that we’re not doing something and that the other person is wiser that we are. It’s implicit that we’ve missed a trick and they haven’t. That they know better exactly what will work for us. Well, in reality, we know best – better than anyone – what works for us and as we all know, making a decision ourselves and then sticking to it is always more powerful than carrying out other people’s advice. We own the outcome and, as such, are responsible for the result. (Or, in this case, response-able).

One of the big pieces of being an influential communicator as you work is to put across your ideas, suggestions, or advice (still need to do this!) and, at the same time, allow the other person to decide for themselves how, and if, it will work for them. It then becomes their decision, their action. This principle applies just as effectively, if not more so, at home with our families and friends – and those trickiest of customers, your children.

So, how do you get across your idea, suggestion, advice without saying “what you should do is” or “I think you should…”?

Here are 3 quick and easy ways which work, for you to try out:

  1. Start with “I’ve got an idea for you..” – this way you’re putting out that it’s only an idea and it’s for you to contemplate and understand if and how it will work. By saying “I’ve got” you’re telling the other person “OK, I’m ready with something that I think you’ll want but it’s up to you what you do with it”.
  2. Say “I’m going to make a suggestion here” – again, you’re putting across that you have something to offer and you want to get their buy-in before you just throw it at them. 9 times out of 10, if you’ve read the situation and your relationship correctly, the other person will be more open.
  3. Think aloud – “hmmm, that’s tricky, now I wonder if…” – you can hear (and feel) that you’re firstly empathising that they have an issue or something tricky going on ie, they’re not an idiot – and saying “I wonder if” is a pensive, non-confrontational way of offering your thought or suggestion.

As with all of the 3 ideas above, avoiding the ‘should’ word once you start with these phrases is crucial. Remember, by offering your thoughts in a less fixed way, you leave the other person open to taking on what you think but without your judgement (intentional or otherwise) behind it.

So, I’m going to make a suggestion here Amanda. Try these phrases on for size the next time you feel yourself about to say “well, you should” or “oh, it’s obvious, what you should do is…” You’ll notice the difference in how easily the other person/s take on what you think and if they ignore you then at least they know you contributed your thoughts.

As I always say at dinner time to my husband, “There are two choices for dinner. Take it. Or leave it.” I bet, like he does, they’ll take it more often than not.