“That is a great idea, but….”
“I agree with you a 100%, but….”
“I really liked what you did, but…”
“He/she is really a great, but…”
How many times have we heard those words or how many times have we said them to others? We all know what comes after the “but,” and it is usually negative. That “but” sucks all the positive out of the first part of what we are saying. It says:
“I don’t really think it is a great idea.”
“I don’t agree with you a 100%.”
“I don’t really like what you did.”
“They are really not that great.”
It is what people can hear and remember and often this is not our intention (except for those passive aggressive people).
The root of this kind of communication may come from behavioral research that says something along the lines of suggesting we provide 5 positives to every negative and this is a good practice. The issue is the “but.”
Three Strategies You can Use
ONE: Keep the positives. It is a great way to reinforce the behaviors we want to see. How do we decide on what behaviors we want to reinforce? Briefly, those behaviors should be identified and shared as part of the vision you have created with your staff (topic for another blog post).
TWO: Drop “but” from your vocabulary! Look for other words like however or better yet, turn the “but” into a question. The following questions can help build relationships, actively involve both you and the other person in the process and let the other person know their thoughts are valued.
- What was your thinking behind what you just did?
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- Can you tell me more?
- What other ways do you think you could approach this issue?
- How do you think you can improve this process?
- Can I share some ideas with you that you might find effective and useful?
Three: Ask for feedback and then, reflect. I always ask people if the feedback made sense to them. Was it relevant to their needs? Could I have made it clearer? Feedback is not always easy to hear and sometimes I can get defensive, so that is why I, you, need to set time aside for reflection. I resist the temptation to respond immediately, other than thank you. Take time to reflect on what I should take and use. I go back to the person and am specific in thanking them for what was useful and helpful. In addition to reinforcing the relationship, it models how they should look at and use feedback.
One of the objectives of feedback is to help foster change either toward a specific goal or for general improvement. When we don’t provide feedback in a supportive and positive way, neither is accomplished. An adaptation of a Mahatma Gandhi quote: Whenever we give feedback, give it with kindness and be truthful-with the intent to help, otherwise the message and the messenger will be ignored.