Let Others Go First

So what do you do when you’re in a meeting or a conversation with someone, and each of you has something important to say or share?  Do you start talking over each other until one participant gives up and lets the other continue?  Do you minimize the other person’s position or topic and stress the importance yours until they finally “realizes” that they need to be quiet and consider themselves “blessed” to be hearing your thoughts and opinions?  No, those are bad suggestions.

Instead, I would suggest that you let the other person go first.

It’s tough, waiting to share a great idea or information with others.  Especially when it’s something you’ve put a lot of time and thought into.  You’re excited by the work you’ve done and want to share it with others.  However, it’s important to realize the other person is just as eager to share their idea with you.

Here’s why I suggest letting the other person go first:  If you go first, they won’t really be listening to you, because they will be preoccupied waiting for an opportunity to share their thought.  For me, I’d rather let someone go first and have their full attention as I go second.

Here some suggestions to keep in mind when letting someone go first:

  • Jot down what you want to share so you don’t forget.
  • Invite the other person to go first by saying something like, “I’ve got a thought on this, but I’d like to hear your take first. What do you think?”
  • Actually listen to what they say.  If you fake it, and just pretend to listen, they’ll know, and you can expect likewise when it’s your turn.
  • Ask for feedback or clarification you might need on what they said.
  • When it’s you turn, point out any similarities or places where your thoughts intersect with the other person’s.

Letting the other person go first doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have their undivided attention, but at least you’ll increase the likelihood of having it.  And if they are totally checked out or disinterested in what you’re saying, that’s a strong signal as to their potential involvement or support for your idea, which is good to know, because you can then look for others to share your idea with who would be more supportive.

Ultimately, others go first is about paving the way for better communication with others, and increasing the probability of being heard by others, as well as hearing them.

So give it a try in the weeks ahead.  When you have the opportunity, let someone else go first and see what happens.  My hunch is that not only will more of your ideas get heard, the other person will appreciate the respect you showed them by letting them go first, and listening to what they said.

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