Communication Managing Self

Don’t want to come across as a jerk? Try this one simple thing

shutterstock_279656663
Written by Allison Wolf

Have you ever noticed how irritating it can be when someone points out our errors?

At home we might hear: “You forgot to empty the dishwasher again.”

At work you may be told: “You missed citing the leading authority on this issue.”

Ugh.

It’s never pleasant to be called out on our mistakes. And if the message triggers a stress response, the hormones released inhibit our ability to reflect and reason for a time.

One key to working effectively in teams, with an assistant, or delegating tasks is to learn to provide feedback in a way that supports the individual’s learning and growth. Mastering how to give feedback effectively is a valuable skill.

William Ury, author of The Power of a Positive No, writes:

“A natural human tendency is to point a finger at the person: ‘The product was delayed because your team took so long to get organized and because you made too many changes.’

Such you-statements, however, naturally make the other feel defensive and reactive.

A more neutral and effective way to get the same information across is to replace you with the. Here’s an example:

‘The product got delayed as a result of the many changes that were made.’

The-statements avoid conflating the person with the behavior. The-statements are a simple Yes to the facts. No blame, no judgment, just the straight facts.” (Positive No, p. 105)

This month notice the difference when you use this approach.

Instead of focusing the feedback on the person, zero in on the facts. Here’s an example:

  • You-statement: “The negotiation stalled because you took two weeks to respond to the emails and phone messages and then you changed your mind about the outcome you were after.”
  • The-statement of facts: “The negotiation stalled because of delays in responses and the change in the desired outcome.”

In a case where a legal assistant has made an error on a document:

  • You-statement: “You missed updating the dollar value on this settlement letter.”
  • The-statement of facts: “The settlement letter does not have the updated dollar value.”

This small shift from you to the can make a big impact.

This month, watch for opportunities to exchange you with the-statements. Notice the impact this has on the effectiveness of your communication and let me know what you discover.

 

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and a lawyer coach with over a decade of experience helping clients overcome challenges and achieve success however they define it. In practice this can be many things from helping a law firm partner get more “dad time” with his young family, to coaching a lawyer on the business development strategy, skills, and implementation to grow her legal practice. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at allison@shiftworks.ca or visit my website thelawyercoach.com.

Leave a Comment