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.

Advertisement

What’s the Outcome We’re Expecting

Have you ever hopped in the car with somewhere important to go and just found yourself driving around and never making it to the destination?  It may be somewhere we’ve been multiple times, or it may be somewhere we’ve never been before.  Regardless, when we get in the car and start the engine, we usually know where it is we would like to go, so our probability of getting to our destination is quite high.

What about a meeting, appointment, or important phone conversation?  How many times do we begin one without really knowing or specifying what a successful outcome looks like, leaving others in attendance to think to themselves, “Where is this going”?  I think the best way to avoid this scenario is to ask the people in attendance for their expectations.

Business consultant Ray Edwards addressed this in a recent podcast (time remaining 6:03), and I thought his insight was significant.  At the beginning of any call he has with a client he asks, “So that we get the most out of this call, what’s the most important thing that needs to happen on this call?”

What a great question to ask!  This question is applicable not only for phone calls, but also for meetings and appointments.  The question allows everyone in attendance to know the desired outcome the appointment was created to achieve, as well as creating a framework to keep the appointment on task.  I’ve already asked this question once this week, prior to a scheduled meeting, and found the insight I received enabled me to better participate.

If you find that your meetings, appointments or important phone conversations lack direction or a specific outcome, try doing one of the following before the meeting:

  • Describe to the attendees the desired outcome of the appointment. This is most applicable if you scheduled the appointment.  It lets everyone know why they are there.
  • Ask attendees if there is any specific outcome they need from the appointment.

Asking this simple question, or stating a desired outcome at the beginning of an appointment, will bring focus and efficiency that may otherwise not be present.  Not only will your appointments be more successful, those in attendance will appreciate being asked what is important to them.