Recently I was discussing a case with a colleague, trying to consider the outcomes of a soon to be project. We went through the process, planning for risk, managing expectation etc. all in an attempt to predict the end game.
Later that day when I returned home my daughter was fighting with her brother. I was listening to the dialogue intently, determined to keep calm. I was also trying to understand how an 8 year old would end up warring against someone half her age. It seemed so predictable, almost as if they had been through the same routine over and over.
Obviously being the know-it-all I am, I took her to the side and questioned if when she is asking, telling or debating if she actually knows what’s coming next. She took a moment to ponder (in truth so did I, slightly alarmed by my own realisation). I proceeded to try to explain that she needs to think of all discussion as a game of chess, trying to plan for the next query or response BEFORE she speaks. More importantly still, every time trying to make an educated guess about what the opponent is really after. She pottered off, saying she understood but in reality I think I learned more.
How often are we caught up in discussions that we already know the outcome of, but we go through the motions, for a variety of reasons of course, being polite, hearing people out etc. but what about when those discussions really matter?
Good planning doesn’t just come out on the project table does it? Should we be thinking more objectively about all possible outcomes, in terms of a response BEFORE we speak? Perhaps before we convey an opinion, send that email or call a client, there may actually be an opportunity to dramatically reduce the conversation needed, or steer it in a whole new exciting direction, a direction that you really DO want to engage over.
In a world of immediate, fire and forget communication, half-baked text base discussion is absolutely everywhere, it’s important we don’t accidentally do the same with all our discussions too, it’s easy to be lazy and not think ahead, even just one move.
As someone once told me, words have a meaning, use them effectively.