Helpful Straight Talking – The power of ‘and’
As a coach and trainer, I have become fascinated by the power of language. It is interesting to listen to people and how they phrase things and note the impact that a phrase, vocabulary choice, and word position can have. This week’s blog looks at a small word and the power it can have when we are confronting issues with people… So, let’s look at ‘and’.
Conjunctions are ‘connecting words’ which connect clauses or sentences, or coordinate words in the same clause (e.g. and, but, if). They are only small, but how we use them can make a big difference to the emotional intelligence of a sentence. People process what we say in the emotional centre of their brains. This part of the brain is constantly looking out for any sense of threat to our standing or security. So, take a look at these pairs of sentences and notice the impact of our choice of sentence – see how the emotional part of you perceives each option.
I know you have put in a lot of work into this, but what we need are higher levels of detail.
I know you have put in a lot of work into this, and what we need are higher levels of detail.
I hear what you are saying, but I think we should start the meeting at 9am.
I hear what you are saying, and I think we should start the meeting at 9am.
I really like you, but I would like you to arrive at work for 9am.
I really like you, and I would like you to arrive at work for 9am.
Imagine they have been said to you. What is the impact of the connectives?
Maybe in the first pair, you felt your hard work was negated by using but?
Maybe in the second pair, you felt your view was being rejected?
Maybe in the third pair, you felt not so liked after all?
There is often a natural tendency when disagreeing with someone to use ‘but’ as it is a word that contrasts the clauses. However, from an emotional intelligence point of view, it can come across as negating what has previously been said. You may find that by using ‘but’ it felt negative. Using ‘and’ softens the situation. This is particularly helpful with someone who is feeling vulnerable.
The interesting thing is that the purpose of ‘and’ as a conjunction is to add something. This means it is building on the previous clause or part of the sentence. Building, adding on. There is no sense of negating what has just been said. It intimates that where we have got to is ok ‘and’ it is now time to add more. Good leaders lift people up to higher things. Therefore, a word like ‘and’ illustrates building someone up to more.
I have also found that using the word illegally helps too! Now, before you call the police for my next use of the word ‘and’, I am talking about the grammar police here, as I start the sentence with a conjunction.
When people give me an answer, but it is not fully sufficient to solve the problem, the use of ‘and’ can be a gentle, ‘adding to’ to encourage the person to give more. For example, if you are asking someone about how they could improve the situation with a colleague and they give you an answer that takes a small step towards improving but more is needed. Reply with:
‘And what else do you think you could do to help this?’
Sometimes, I even just use the word ‘and’ with a soft gently testing tone and leave it hanging with expectation they can come up with more:
‘And?’ (with a soft gently testing tone)
How about it?
You will be amazed what power this one little word has. Try using it a little more and see the emotionally intelligent impact that it has. Watch people’s reactions. Are they more engaged? Do you encounter less anger or tears in their responses?
Can we help you?
How do you find confronting issues? We hope this blog has been helpful, and if you would like some more targeted support to your leadership and raising issues, then do get in contact with us. We can run group training on this for your leaders or organise one-to-one coaching to help with techniques. Give us a call on 01449 710438 if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.
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