How to Transform Your Conversation with 4 Magical Words

4 Magical Words to Shift Your Conversation in a Positive Direction

Date Posted: 21st April 2021

I’m going to give you 4 magic words which you can use in a lot of situations to help you transform your conversation and move them forward in a more positive direction, but be careful, like any good thing, you can use it too much and you can use it badly.

How to Transform Your Conversation

I once worked in one organisation where we all got trained to use this phrase, and we just started hammering each other with it, and it didn’t end well, so be careful.

The magic phrase is: “what do you suggest?” or “what do you propose?” or “what do you think?”  or even “what would you do?”. You could phrase it in lots of different ways but the idea is to throw the onus of coming up with solutions back onto the person that you’re speaking to. 

Now, you could use this in lots of different ways, for instance, if someone is complaining or objecting about something, you could use it then: “what do you suggest?”.

If you’re in a meeting and there’s a bit of a disagreement and you’re struggling to get past that disagreement you could say: “Okay. I hear what you are saying. What do you suggest we do?”.

And so this can be a very powerful phrase to transform your conversation. 

But you must make sure that you don’t just throw it at people clumsily and brutally in a way to abdicate responsibility. You don’t want to come across as the person with slopping shoulders who refuses to take on any of the responsibility.

The first thing you can do when you’re in these types of situations, disagreements or people complaining etc, is you could start by listening to them and then trying to agree with them as much as you can.

Now you may not be able to agree with everything, but at the very least you can validate what they say and you can at least agree that if you were in their shoes that maybe you would feel the same way. You could agree that it’s a problem. You could agree that it’s not ideal. You could at least agree that they’re upset about it or complaining about it and so on.

So listen to what they say, validate what they say, and then you could say: “what do you suggest?” or “what do you propose?” or “what would you do if you were in my shoes?”.

They may come up with a very good solution or a very good idea. It may be not as good as your idea or your way of doing things, but which is at least acceptable, and at that point, I would say “yes” as much as I can.

If they’ve got an idea which is acceptable to a point, go with it, go with their idea and they will implement that idea with far more enthusiasm, far more zeal than any of your ideas.

But what if they don’t have a good idea?

Well if they don’t have a very good idea because perhaps it isn’t legally compliant, you could say: “I hear what you are saying, and if I could do that I would, and the reality is that we have some health and safety law which we must comply with, and this is the law, this is what it says and this is what it requires, we have to comply with this law, so bearing in mind the legal boundaries that we have to work within, what do you suggest we do? How could we get around this? How would you do this?”

And you just throw it back to them. You give them the boundaries within which you have to work within and get them to come up with ideas and solutions. And wherever possible, try to implement those ideas and solutions with them so that these are their ideas rather than your ideas and you’ll find people are just so much more enthusiastic when it comes to implementing their own ideas.

If you’d like to learn more about how to transform your conversation, or any other topic regarding communication, leadership and management, check out our Managing People Effectively course.

Enjoy your day!