Specifically – what do you want?

by Pamela jett, CSP

Have you ever started out a conversation with a colleague or your boss only to have them respond in a completely different fashion that what you needed?  For example, perhaps you are up-dating a colleague on the status of a project.  Your intent is to simply bring them up to speed or to keep them in the loop, not open the project up for intense discussion or criticism.  And yet, that is what they proceed to do.  They question you.  They probe.  They seek out tons of detail.  All you were trying to do is give them an up-date and they are turning it into a full blown project de-brief.  You might find yourself on the defensive or even feel like you are being unjustly attacked since your intent was simply an up-date, not a discussion session.

The opposite can also occur.  You might want your leader’s or your colleagues’s insights on the state of a project, but all they seem to do when you talk to them is offer comments such as “thanks for the up-date” or “that’s good to know.”  You might find yourself frustrated and even questioning their level of commitment or engagement since they only offered minimal response.

If you have ever experienced frustration of this sort, here is a powerful communication tool you can use:  ask for the kind of response you want. Savvy communicators will let listeners know what kind of feedback or response they are looking for by pre-calling it up front.  You might try incorporating phrases such as:

  • This is simply a quick project up-date.  I will have a full report at a later date.
  • I want to keep you in the loop with the brief re-cap.
  • This is an FYI to bring you up to speed.
  • I have some things I would like your opinion on.
  • I could use your insight and thoughts.
  • I would appreciate if you could share what you think I could do here.

While these are only examples, they illustrate how easy it is to ask for what you want up front.  By telling people it is an up-date, they are less likely to dive into the nitty-gritty or bombard you with questions.  And, by telling people when you want their insight it frees them up to comment.  Obviously, it is not a fool-proof method.  However, by telling the listener the kind of response you want, you increase the chance that you will get it!

So, the next time you are sharing information, ask yourself what kind of a response are you looking and let your listener know.

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