Kay White is an expert in communication and is a regular contributor to the Jenrick Blog and Digest Newsletter. Here is another superb article from Kay to help you enhance the effectiveness of your communication...

“Now, what you should do is…”   “Well, it’s obvious, you should do this, then you should do that and then you should tell them you've done it”.

Should do.

What you should do and what you want to and actually do are often very different things.  Even if the advice we've been given is spot on, the fact that we've been told we ‘should’ do it is often the very reason we don’t follow it or take it on.  So if that’s the reaction we have, it’s the reaction that others will have when we ‘should’ all over them. Hmmm. There’s something innately irritating to be told we should be doing something.  It implies – this is the subtle, savvy part to understand – it implies that we’re not doing something right and that the other person is wiser that we are.  It’s implicit that we've missed a trick and they haven’t.  That they know better exactly what will work for us. Grrrrr. That's the feeling that so often comes up.  Well, in reality, we know best – better than anyone – what works for us and as we all know, making a decision ourselves and then sticking to it is always more powerful than carrying out other people’s advice.  We own the outcome and, as such, are responsible for the result. (Or, in this case, response-able). One of the big pieces of being an influential business woman at work is putting across your ideas, suggestions, or advice and letting the other person decide for themselves how, and/or if, it will work for them.  It then becomes their decision, their action.  This principle applies just as effectively, if not more so, at home with our families and friends!  How many times have you said "Oh, you should just say.." at home and been met with a bored or stoney face?

So, how do you get across your idea, suggestion, advice without 'shoulding' all over people by saying “what you should do is” or “I think you should…”?

Here are 3 quick and easy ways which work, for you to try out:

  1. Start with “I’ve got an idea for you..” – this way you’re putting out that it’s only an idea and it’s for you to contemplate and understand if and how it will work.  By saying “I’ve got” you’re telling the other person “OK, I’m ready with something that I think you’ll want but it’s up to you what you do with it”.
  2. Say “Can I make a suggestion here?” – again, you’re putting across that you have something to offer and you want to get their buy-in before you just throw it at them.  9 times out of 10, if you've read the situation and your relationship correctly, the other person will say “yes please”.
  3. Think aloud “hmmm, that’s tricky, now I wonder if…” – you can hear (and feel) that you’re firstly empathising that they have an issue or something tricky going on ie, they’re not an idiot – and saying “I wonder if” is a pensive, non-confrontational way of offering your thought or suggestion.

As with all of the 3 ideas above, avoiding the ‘should’ word once you start with these phrases is crucial.  Remember, by offering your thoughts in a less fixed way, you leave the other person open to taking on what you think but without your judgement (intentional or otherwise) behind it. So, can I make a suggestion here? Try these phrases on for size the next time you feel yourself about to say “well, you should” or “oh, it’s obvious, what you should do is…” You’ll notice the difference in how easily the other person's take on what you think and if they ignore you then at least they know you contributed your thoughts. When it comes to my cooking - they have two choices. Take it. Or leave it. I bet they’ll take it more often than not!

Article reproduced with permission of Kay White, Savvy & Influential Communication Expert and Mentor at kaywhite.com

FURTHER INFORMATION Kay shows experienced - and often frustrated - business women (and very smart men) how to be heard and understood by accessorising their day-to-day interactions with subtle, influential phrases and words to make people sit up, listen and take action. Kay’s book, The A to Z of Being Understood is an international #1 Bestseller.