Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Say what you mean

Maybe the political season in the US has perked up my ears about this, but I've been noticing some indirect or less-than-committed responses from people in meetings lately.

Here's how it goes: you put forth an opinion or propose a decision, and someone else gives you a response that makes it sound kind of like they agree, but it just leaves you wanting. In other words, I'm looking for an "I agree," or "Absolutely," -- even a "No way, that's not even close" -- so that I can get to a definitive outcome. Instead, I get something squirrely and only "semi-committal."

Some of the ones that bug me are:

  • "I don't disagree."

    • I've challenged this with, "OK, then - so you agree?" - I often get a "No" in response. This seems to be a way to avoid conflict, but it can mislead people into thinking you agree when you don't yet.

  • "I would agree with you."

    • OK, so do you agree? Or is this yet another conflict avoider? I suppose I should test this one next time I hear it (I've heard it quite a bit, recently).

For a healthy, productive discussion, I think it works better if people stay away from squirrely kinds of statements. Have you run across any others like this?

Here are some clearer alternatives:

  • "I'm not convinced yet - let's discuss it some more."

  • "I'm almost there - if we could solve ____, I think I could support this."

Of course, I recognize that it's sometimes necessary to get a little squirrely. I used to work for a guy that would never give up arguing (not debating - this was arguing) until he felt he'd won. I came up with the statement below, which seemed to work to end the argument. Practice saying this in a positive-sounding tone, and it can get you out of dogmatic, one-sided blah-blah's with folks who won't quit 'til they win.

My stealthy (and very squirrely) statement is:

"Well, I certainly can't fail to disagree with you there! Well done."

Work through the double negatives and see what I'm actually saying. My sympathies if you ever need to use this one to stop a nutty argument.