by Scott

November 18, 2019

Gentle Warning:- The language patterns may feel a little (or a lot) strange when you first decide to use them.  The patterns are not intended to replace effective day-to-day management and communication, although they can prove highly effective when partnered with the above.   

Gathering Information…

REMEMBER, gather information ahead of proposing a way forward, and ask a clarifying question at the end such as …what are your thoughts?  May I just ask…? Or May I check you and I both agree?

I’d like to understand your thoughts on this.

You believe this to be the best decision because….?

Just so I’m clear in my own mind, please will you just clarify for me….why/how/when…?

May I check that I’ve fully understood your point/recommendation/concern? (Repeat back to them) then ask ‘Is there anything I missed or have I understood you correctly?’

It might be useful if…/Might it be useful if…?

Is there an alternative solution that we may not have identified yet?

You said you could and you would, you didn’t…How is that acceptable?

What is your outcome from this meeting/project?

What specific information would it be valuable for me to share with you?

May I check what you mean when you say (…….)?

May I just check my understanding of…?

I’m unsure at the moment just how that will be helpful…

Would you help me understand…?

Maybe I’ve missed something…Please tell me if I have.

May I ask you/just check with you…?

What’s the purpose/outcome to be achieved? Why is that?

Is what you’re saying (repeat back word for word) or have I missed something?

Language Patterns That Promote Ownership

  • On a scale from one to four….how confident are you with/that you understand…?
  • How confident are you that this project has been planned sufficiently well to get off to a good start?
  • How well or badly is the project/site progressing in terms of achieving deadline and quality requirements?
  • What two things….(are you seeing as priorities for…?/do you believe need to be done to ensure the project is delivered successfully?)
  • What can you do at no or low cost to resolve that problem, and retain client trust?
  • What needs to be done immediately to resolve the problem, and who needs to take responsibility for implementing the solution?
  • Please let me know what financial cost this problem has already had on the business and what you are going to do to resolve it.
  • What is the one thing you might have not yet thought of that could further minimise the risk of problems, delays and quality issues?
  • If you think two weeks ahead of today, what do you see as the biggest risk to (the project/the site) not being completed on time or achieving the required quality?
  • What action/s are you taking/going to take, to ensure the risks are reduced or removed?
  • So, before you and your team get started, just so I can be clear, with the plan in agreed and in place, you’re certain/confident that this project/or part of/ will be delivered on budget, on time to the required standard? 

Language Patterns That Encourage Planning & Minimise Issues

  • What investment are you making in time to ensure this project’s priorities are clearly understood, and that the client is in agreement?
  • With whom are you intending to plan with prior to the project commencing, and what is the outcome of the planning meeting to be?
  • If you were viewing this project from (name of stakeholder)’s perspective, what would you be seeing as the biggest risk/s and opportunity/ies for this project?
  • What issues have arisen on similar projects that you can potentially avoid with better planning and collaboration with the client’s site manager?
  • How will you ensure that the (team/department) has the correct information, reasonable time to produce what you need?
  • What is the one thing you might have not yet thought of that could further minimise the risk of problems, delays and quality issues?
  • So, before you and your team get started, just so I can understand exactly what’s going to happen, run your plan past me one more time.

Decision Making & Removing Resistance

  • The reason I’m recommending to you/I am mentioning this action/this decision is BECAUSE….
  • There is no avoiding the fact that each of the options has its own downside. My question for you to consider is ….
  • I appreciate that this is a serious situation for you, but I would be doing our organisation a disservice by not mentioning/recommending to you that you…..
  • Because of the situation re (subject) the recommendation I am making to you is (solution). This will enable you to (mention clear benefits as well as how your recommendation will protect them against the negatives/downsides too).
  • Just so I can be clear on what your top priority is with this matter, please tell me…..?
  • The fact that (state the situation/predicament) means that (state separately the consequences and implications for the individual and their business). What do you think would be the best decision for you to make with these factors in mind?
  • It’s important that a decision is made on this today because (give valid reason/s). May I ask what currently stops you from deciding on a course of action now?
  • When you think someone knows the answer to your question, or knows which decision they need to make on a matter but won’t, if they answer ‘I don’t know’, pause for a moment and gently ask ‘What would your most trusted colleague/coach/friend recommend you do?’ This pattern takes the emotional connection out of the situation to some extent and frees up their thinking.
  • I’m curious to understand…what/why/how/when…Would you share your thoughts with me?
  • When the same problem is ongoing, gently ask ‘May I get your thoughts on what is happening for you/with you which is allowing this problem to continue?’
  • When would be a good time within the next two days to make a decision on what you want to do regarding (the issue/opportunity)?

Creating Meaning

  • …..Because….(reason/s)’
  • The reason/s for this are (reasons) and this has led to the decision to….
  • What this means is….(for the individual/group/client/organisation)
  • What I mean when I say (opinion/recommendation/concern) is….
  • Would you help me understand (what/why/who/when/how/where)?
  • Due to the fact that (A), it has been decided that (B)..
  • Just so we can all ensure that collective understanding is achieved, might it be worth us checking-in intermittently throughout our discussion?
  • The purpose of this (meeting/activity/decision) is/was to…and…the outcome was…
  • Replacing ‘We’ with ‘The team’ or ‘The company’ enables greater separation and meaning in challenging conversations.

About the author 


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