“I know” verses “What do you think?”

– Posted in: Business, Psychology, Success

Why are the words “I know” so limiting and the words “What do you think?” so powerful?

I have just seen a Youtube video by Tom Peters, entitled “LEADERSHIP: 4 Most Important Words.”

In the video, Tom says “…if you’re really interested in engaging your workforce, you’ll use four simple words – “What do you think?”

While watching Tom’s video I remembered the exact opposite of Tom’s paradigm. It was a time when I told my father that I enjoyed listening to Alistair Cooke’s, BBC radio broadcasts, entitled ‘Letter from America’. My Dad was surprised.

At the time, I had not realised that Alistair Cooke had been broadcasting since 1946! Both of us had been informed, during our young adulthood, by the same commentator.

Alistair was a great communicator. He had a very precise way of sounding ‘conversational’ on the radio. He used short sentences. In addition, he often paused – to leave thinking time. He was creating ‘audio paragraphs’.

I remembered something Alistair discovered when he was a young student, at Yale and Harvard University. He noticed that people would say, “That’s right” when they, in fact, did not know anything about the subject being discussed.

He realised that saying, “That’s right” enabled a person to develop and ‘air of authority’. This simple technique stopped the conversation. It is a protection device.

To me, this is the same as saying “I know”. If a person says, “I know”, it effectively ‘shuts down’ a conversation. Who would want to explain or discuss anything with (a perceived) expert?

However, asking the question “What do you think?” will likely encourage a person to access their innate creativity and allow them to realise that they are contributing.

Whom would a leader rather have on their team? A person who feels that their paradigm is ‘old news’ of someone to who feels their creativity is of value?

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