Words You Don’t Say But Should
Words you don’t say but should drain energy like leeches.
When you don’t speak up, you dance with elephants.
Words you don’t say but should come with hidden consequences.
7 hidden consequences of words you don’t say but should:
Unspoken expectations turn into blame.
- You should have…
- You didn’t…
- Why didn’t you…
Once you blame someone, you aren’t responsible anymore. It’s false release.
#3. False impressions.
People think they’re successful until you drum up courage to talk about poor performance or toxic patterns.
Progress stalls when you choke on words that should be said.
#5. Low impact.
Do you want impactful leadership? Communicate a point of view instead of nodding like a bobble head.
Aspiration dies when it isn’t spoken.
Anger persists until solutions are sought.
The words you don’t say but should cause disappointment with yourself.
3 ways to say words you don’t say but should:
#1. Be brief.
- Assume you talk too long.
- Prepare your message.
- Only open your mouth to make things better. Accusation, defensiveness, and blame don’t make things better.
Don’t be seduced into bloviating by the sound of your own voice.
#2. Begin with the end in mind.
Don’t talk until you have a clear outcome in mind.
Determine the point, then get to the point.
Tell people the reason you’re talking.
- I want to clarify…
- I’m looking for your input.
- Let’s work to find a solution.
- I’d like us to choose a new way of…
#3. Learn what people need to know.
Don’t answer questions people aren’t asking.
When speaking to inform, ask, “What questions come to mind?”
Set clear direction and ask, “What do you need to know to take the next step?”
The most important goals of leadership communication are connecting with people and making things better.
What rules of communication are serving you well?
What words are difficult for leaders to say?
Leadership Communication: 10 Reasons to Shut Your Mouth Before it’s too Late
The Seven Golden Rules of Leadership
This message was very timely and necessary. I appreciate the idea “when you don’t speak words that you should, you dance with the elephants”. It’s so difficult to move forward when there is an elephant in the room… who would ever want to be a part of that?!
Thanks Rosanne. I think sometimes we forget there are negative consequences to things we don’t do.
A good reminder that what is NOT said often has more serious implications than what is expressed. I really like, “Unspoken expectations turn into blame.” This happens every day down in the trenches where actual work is being done. Great post!
Thank Jim. I appreciate you dropping in today. As I think about it, most of the negative consequences of not speaking up impact me first. Seems a little counter-productive to not say things that should be said.
I still grapple with knowing, “What SHOULD be said.”
“Don’t answer questions people aren’t asking” can be a two-edged sword for a leader. Sometimes, we answer those questions because we aren’t listening or we don’t understand what the other person needs. But sometimes, we have to answer those questions, because they are the real elephant in the room. The trick, of course, is figuring out whether those unasked questions need to be answered and, if so, when.
Wonderful observation, Jennifer. You might think of it as preventing issues before they arise. Sometimes people don’t know what to ask.
What comes to mind is informing people of the ramifications of decisions before asking for questions.
I suppose another concern is the questions people are afraid to ask.
Dealing with problematic situations
Levels of avoidance
1. Not saying the words you should.
2. Dancing around the issue. Using words that are vague and general. Sugar-coating the message.
3. Using words that directly address the issue.
Consider using this framework to have a difficult conversation:
–Ask, what was your goal in this situation.
–Describe the person’s behavior and why it was ineffective or inappropriate.
–Discuss and get agreement on required changes.
–Ask for commitment and plan to follow up in the future.
Thanks Paul. Useful and concise as always.
We might add, “With kindness,” when speaking directly.
Really good post today. Thanks, Dan.
I think you sometimes need to answer questions that aren’t being asked. Especially when you understand WHY those questions aren’t being asked!
“But” and “Should” are 2 additions I’d recommend, and they’re right there in your title.
“But” is a cancelling conjunction. It’s negative, and it erases anything in the beginning that has any kind of good will. “And” is additive. It builds on the good will of the what you were saying then adds to it. I’ll give you an example of the same sentence with the only difference being “but vs and”:
I love what you wrote here, but I have a couple of recommendations.
I love what you wrote here, and I have a couple of recommendations.
It changes the whole tone and tenor of what is being said. Now instead of immediately signaling disagreement and correction, I can propose agreement and then participation.
“Should” is a maybe word. It’s indecisive. It relies on hopes and dreams rather than data and certainty. It demonstrates a weak grasp of any situation. It certainly has it’s place, and in most cases it signals a lack of confidence and assertion. My recommendation is to replace it with an appropriate “need”, “must”, “will”, etc.
An example of a modified title using these recommendations: “Words you don’t say and must”