#englishonthesideFriday, November 18, 2016
Give the Floor
For the Herald
When You Need To Get the First Word In At Work (And When You Don't)
I took a class once that used a talking stick (1) to facilitate conversation. If you’re not familiar, this is a tool used to make sure everyone’s voice is heard because you can only chime in (2) when you’re holding it.
Oh, if only the workplace had such a clear-cut process. Sometimes it’s tough to know when to speak up, and when to let the other person go first. Maybe you’re negotiating a raise, dealing with an angry client, or on a conference call with senior executives. When do you cede the floor (3) —and when do you take the lead?
While I can’t provide the answer for every situation, I can tell you best practices.
WHEN TO SPEAK FIRST
1. When you're negotiating a raise. If you’re asking your boss for a raise and you have all the research and data to back up why you deserve it, you should put your desired salary out there first. When you do that—go for a slightly aggressive but realistic figure—you’ll influence the rest of the conversation, and it should go in your favor.
This is because the number you state becomes the anchor in the negotiation. A high figure will draw the other person’s attention to the positive aspects of that number. For example, if you set your salary sights high, your boss will be tempted to think about all your great attributes and why you’re deserving of that number. If you lowball (4) yourself, he’ll be tempted to think about your performance flaws. By speaking first in this situation (and going high), you influence the negotiation to work in your favor.
2. During a meeting. Just because you attend lots of meetings doesn’t mean you’re always comfortable chiming in. But research shows that the earlier you speak up in this setting, the more successful a participant you’ll be. Of course you want to be prepared, informed, and on point (5).
Waiting until the end—after everyone else has contributed—means you’ll end up comparing your comments to those that have already been made and stressing about adding anything of importance.
3. When working with introverted colleagues. You may enjoy being the center of attention and feel invigorated when you interact with others, but not everyone feels similarly. You may find yourself working with colleagues who appear shy, quiet, or extremely introverted, and this is a great opportunity to take the lead (6) in the conversation. Speak first, but be open to hearing what your colleagues have to say.
Engage the quieter party by asking questions or delivering compliments. When you do, you’ll help break the ice, and help your coworkers feel more comfortable. And as a result, the two of you will be effective collaborators.
WHEN TO LET OTHER PEOPLE SPEAK FIRST
1. During salary discussions in job interviews. When you’re in the running for a new job, the standard advice holds true: Never disclose your salary requirements first. This puts you at a potential disadvantage for a couple of reasons. You could price yourself out of (7) a great job by overreaching (8). Or, if you undershoot (9) the number, the hiring manager may make you a super lowball offer (4).
Every hiring manager has a range that’s assigned to jobs that are open. Instead of candidly stating your requirements, ask him or her to share what the range for this particular job is and where he expects the compensation for this position to land.
2. When you're leading team meetings. Say you’re in a leadership role, and you’re having a meeting with your team. Your goal is to come up with some ideas about how to fix a big problem pertaining to (10) the project you’re working on. If there was ever a time to concede the floor, this is it.
If you genuinely want people to contribute ideas and opinions, you’ve got to give them a chance to talk without interruption before you present your thoughts. If you automatically go first, you risk alienating your team, putting them in a position where they’re not inclined to disagree with you or offer an alternate point of view. As a result, you potentially exit the brainstorm with fewer possible solutions.
3. When your colleague is angry. When a client’s angry, the first rule is to remain calm. Listen to the person, put yourself in her shoes (11), and do your best to see it from her perspective.
Often someone who’s upset needs to vent (12) and feel heard before you can move forward toward solving the actual problem. Any attempt for you to address the concerns before they’re unloaded will be rejected. Once you’ve listened, demonstrate that you’ve paid attention by repeating back what you heard. Then start working on solutions.
There may be no talking sticks where you work. But you can use the idea in any number of situations, whether or not you’re holding it. Thinking of the outcome you’re hoping for can help you decide how to approach a situation. When you make thoughtful decisions about when to speak, and when to listen, you’ll not only achieve better results, but you’ll demonstrate leadership and competence in your communication skill set.
Adapted from a story by Lea McLeod, Fast Company
“talking stick” (1)
Many Native American Traditions make use of a Talking Stick, a tool that is used when a meeting / assembly is called. This stick is passed from person to person while they speak, the rule being that only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time.
“chime in” (2)
If there is a discussion or a conversation going on and a person chimes in, they break into it, especially in a way that interrupts harmoniously. Everyone started to chime in with their own opinions / Feel free to chime in if you’ve got something to add.
“cede the floor” (3)
The floor, when used in delivering speeches or taking turns in communication, refers to the exclusive right to address the audience. The noun may be accompanied by different verbs depending on how people make use of that right. When you “hold the floor,” you speak to a group of people, usually for a long time and not allowing anyone else to speak. If someone “takes the floor,” they stand up and address the audience. You can “get the floor” and “have the floor,” as in When I get the floor, I'll make a short speech / Dr Morris has the floor. Could you please wait until he finishes to reply? If you have the floor, you can also “give it to” another person. Before you give the floor to the main speakers, tell the audience when we are having coffee breaks.
“lowball offer” (4)
To lowball is to underestimate or understate a cost deliberately. If you get a lowball offer, you are given an unfairly low offer. Companies often lowball what they pay management.
“on point” (5)
If you are on point, you are up to the minute, exactly right, as good as you could be, perfect. “We're going to be nice and cool, nice and cool, stay on point, Donald, stay on point” / The team’s defence has had to be on point most of the season / Thank you for the information you provided. It was on point, and I was able to make good use of it.
“take the lead” (6)
In a race or competition, “taking the lead” means “taking the winning position.” Figuratively, when you take the lead, you go first, usually in doing something new or different for people to follow you.
“price yourself out of” (7)
If you price yourself out of the market, you charge either so much that customers stop buying your products or using your services or so little that you cannot make ends meet. If you price yourself out of a job, you do not get the job for requesting too high a salary.
“overreaching” and “undershoot” (8)
To a certain extent, “overreaching” and “undershoot” are opposites in the present article, the contrast clearly anticipated in the prefixes. “Overreaching is in this case descriptive of an action that means “reaching above and beyond, to go to excess, or to exaggerate to the point of exceeding the purpose. When you overreach yourself, you defeat yourself by doing too much, out of excessive eagerness.
“Undershoot,” on the other hand is to fail to achieve a particular result because you aim too low or short of the target.
“pertaining to” (9)
If the problem is pertaining to the project, it means it has reference or relevance to and relation with it. Books pertaining to birds / matters pertaining to the organization of government.
“put yourself in somebody else’s shoes” (10)
If you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, you try to look at a situation from their perspective, as it were, so as to understand how they feel in that situation, usually in a difficult one, as in If you could just put yourself in his shoes for a moment, perhaps you would understand why it is not as easy as you think.
Literally, “venting” is allowing smoke or gas to go through an opening. Figuratively, if you express an emotion freely and usually in a loud or angry manner, you vent. The word is a verb as well as a noun, as in He gave vent to his anger and felt a lot better / I’m sorry about the scene yesterday, I only felt I needed to vent.
Turn-taking is a very important skill applied in conversation, which consists in knowing when to start and when to finish a turn, that is to say, the time when a speaker is talking. And, whether you speak first or let the other speak first, getting your message across is most important in communication.
Plain speaking has two aspects to it, one that is the use of unambiguous, firm language and another that is the avoidance of long, wordy language.
In the first sense, plain speaking involves “not beating about the bush,” that is to say, not avoiding talking about a subject because you are worried about upsetting somebody. Don't beat around the bush. Just tell me where they are. It also avoids “mumbo-jumbo,” which is confusing, meaningless language. We did not understand; his explanation was a lot of mumbo-jumbo.
Moreover, when you use firm language in conversation, you “do not mince matters,” – an idiom that transfers the image cutting something such as meat into small pieces to minimizing the harsh impact of words. Alternately, “you give it to them straight from the shoulder,” in which case, the image comes from boxing. As regards the content, you may tell the other person “a few home truths,” that is to say, some usually unpleasant facts that the interlocutor already knows. If we need to be less bellicose, you may say “I made it crystal clear what I thought.”
It is essential that your interlocutor understand when “you mean business,” and will not be diverted from the main task because you say you want to “get down to brass tacks,” avoiding side issues.
So, there you go; whether you take the lead or follow, take turns skillfully and make sure you “speak your mind” and always have a great conversation wherever that should take place.