Here’s a secret about human beings: In most situations they don’t share everything they believe or know or worry over, regardless of the topic. They dip metaphorical toes in the water to gauge how their opinions or perspectives will be received. In this sense, most of us are politicians of a sort, polling our audiences as we go along. If the data—in listeners’ eyes or gestures—seem to be disconcerting, we often opt for the seeming safety of silence.
This is a huge loss—for the person speaking, but also for those listening. Because very often the most creative, cutting edge thoughts are the ones that initially don’t bring reassuring smiles and nods from those we share them with. They may be greeted with skepticism or even a bit of shock.
That’s why leaders and any true listeners would do well to arm themselves with two words: “Say more.” These seven letters are magical. Use them whenever you have a gut feeling that someone is holding back on sharing his or her complete idea or next thought. Couple them with eye contact and a reassuring nod, and you can make most people—even those with heightened political sensibilities—dig more deeply into what they feel and believe and actually speak about it.
This is no small thing. I believe the unspoken thoughts of human beings engaged in relationships or working on projects together or vetting others’ ideas represent one of the greatest losses of human potential there is.
Say more triggers predictable feelings in the person who has just spoken—but only part of what he or she really has to say. That person is likely to feel valued. That person is likely to feel emboldened. And that person isn’t likely to soon forget the experience of being asked for “more.”
That’ the other lasting benefit of a say more corporate culture or family culture or relationship (of any kind) culture. Once you embrace it and deploy it, it can change people—sometimes, forever.
That’s a lot of oomph from two words. Try them out.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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