Quick Tip: Listen First
In his wonderfully insightful leadership book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith identifies common behaviors we should forgo. Rather than undertake new personal initiatives, make sweeping changes, and resolve to be better, he suggests we simply stop doing certain things. He describes 20 behaviors altogether that, if we just stop doing them, we can take ourselves to the next level.
One is a simple communication habit we can all recognize and stop--that is, beginning our responses to others with the words "no," "but," or "however." Why? Because doing so is a way of thinly disguised way of telling the other person, "You are wrong."
No matter how nicely, no matter how sweet your tone, no matter how much humor you include, the message is the same. Starting with "no," "but," or "however" is a lead-in that means "you are wrong."
We've all done it, and we've all had it done to us. It goes like this:
"Your document is too long. No one will read it."
"But there's so much to say. I can't possibly shorten it."
Meaning: You are wrong; my document isn't too long.
"Your product is difficult to use."
"No, it's just that it's complex because it performs so many functions."
Meaning: You are wrong. My product isn't difficult to use.
"Your team was late completing their work."
"However, what they did was pretty good."
Meaning: You are wrong to condemn my team for being late, considering. (Note: "That's true, however..." is just as bad.)
You get the idea.
What should you say instead of "but," "no," and "however"? Say "thank you." In other words, instead of always defending your ideas and challenging others, simply take in what others say.