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Jenn's main blog

Say what you want, don't just agree

Jenn Shallvey

I have had conversations lately where I ask the person what they want or pose choices. I am puzzled by the number of times people don't respond with a definitive statement.

Instead I get comments like "whatever you say will be fine" or "whatever is easiest". Then when asking for a person to decide between two choices I even get "it doesn't matter, either is fine".

The quality of the decision matters...

Now when the question just has to do with whether you want coffee or tea this might not be that big of a deal. However when we move into areas with more consequence such as buying something, choosing a direct airline flight versus one with stopover, investing your money, selecting a person to be on your project team, choosing who comes to your 40th birthday, you might want to consider the legitimacy of the answer.

So what is going on?

Well on the surface we aren't engaging in the conversation at all. In fact I would question whether there is any real listening going on.

On another level maybe there is a block in the person hearing our question.

I also accept that maybe there is a block in the way I am asking the question.

There are two people involved as well. The questioner has resposibility to ask the right question and the responder has responsibility to be clear about where they are at - whether decisive or not.

Some suggestions for getting a meaningful response

When asking questions...

1. Try not to not accept "whatever" or "fine" for an answer. Instead ask the question in another way until you really hear some energy in the voice, some commitment in the words and some ownership of the outcome.



2. Clarify with the person what they said and check to see if you understood their response. Paraphrase, repeat back, even say that you want to be sure you heard them right.

3. If the outcome of the response has serious consequences then check again later.

When responding...

1. Pause and think before you speak. This may be hard for the extroverts out there, but try anyway.

2. Be direct and present in your language. Say "I want" rather than "It might be nice"

3. If you don't understand the question, need more time then say so, don't deflect with a pretend or weak response.

Whether you are the questioner or responder take some time observing other people in conversation. Start to see the patterns and then notice your own style.

Taking these steps may just result in a real conversation with meaningful outcomes.

Let's go there...

Jenn