Years ago, I worked with a colleague who had a knack — and reputation — for facilitating rich conversations, encouraging deep thinking and supporting profound insights, progress and development. Her secret weapon? Two words: “Say more.”
The first time I encountered (and benefited from) this simple prompt was during what I thought would be a quick conversation. I called my co-worker to express a brewing concern — something that wasn’t quite a problem, but I feared could become one. She paused for a moment, took a breath, and spoke those two words, “Say more.”
Expecting reassurance, validation or a solution, I was surprised that the conversational ball was back in my court so quickly. But a half-hour later, I had thoughtfully explored the concern, generated a few possible next steps and found a thought partner I would return to repeatedly over the next five years we worked together. And it all started with “Say more.”
Over the years, I’ve considered why these two words carry such power. Perhaps it’s the neutral way they invite more dialogue without telegraphing or signaling any response. Without judgment. Without any effort to sculpt the response. Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we all crave sincere interest and attention from others. Perhaps we welcome the space for thought in our action-oriented world.
Whatever the reason, “say more” may be the two most powerful words that leaders, employees, parents — heck, everyone — can infuse into conversations.
Using this prompt creates the mental breathing room necessary for ideas to take form and be fully expressed. It allows ideas and feelings that might normally remain submerged to float to the top. It helps people tease out issues, opportunities and the richness associated with concepts that might not yet be fully thought through.
A multipurpose prompt
And here’s the real magic of “say more.” It’s appropriate in nearly any context. For instance, “say more” is a constructive response when you:
- Are genuinely interested in what the person is saying. It’s a great way to keep them talking and get more insights.
- Don’t understand. It’s a gentle way to invite others to create greater clarity.
- Feel defensive. It’s a verbal strategy that allows you to suspend emotional responses until you see the bigger, more comprehensive picture.
- Disagree. It interrupts possible knee-jerk reactions and offers greater context for a possible response.
- Sense subtext. It’s the ideal response when you have that feeling that there’s more beneath the surface or messages that have not yet been expressed.
- Experience a disconnect between the words and the emotions. It’s a vehicle clarifying dissonance between what’s being said and how it’s being said.
- Are stunned, surprised and don’t know what to say. It’s my go-to strategy when I’m blown away by what someone has shared and need moment to compose myself with an appropriate response.
A prompt with plenty of paybacks
These two simple words – “say more” — are likely the most flexible and useful verbal tool in today’s workplace. The benefits to those on the receiving end of this prompt are obvious. But it may be those using the prompt who gain the most from it.
“Say more” inspires an enhanced sense of curiosity. Just infusing this prompt into conversation allows you to build the muscle of wonder. Over time, it retrains the brain to be more focused upon and receptive to others so you can lead with inquisitiveness. It creates a wide-open space for creative idea play. And, who knows, all of this just might lead to learning something new.
However, “say more” doesn’t only enhance one’s inner landscape; it also enhances the outer landscape. These two words, when asked with genuine interest and the spirit of curiosity, have the potential to build stronger relationships. Inquiring into next-level thinking communicates care. It telegraphs respect. And it builds unbeatable trust, both within and outside of the workplace.
“Say more” distinguishes you as a leader, particularly in today’s environment where people frequently feel that they’re being marginalized and encouraged to actually “say less.” Creating the space for others to talk through their thoughts and feelings earns you the well-deserved reputation as someone to seek out when important ideas need to be explored. And the effective and sustained use of these two words ensure your ability to coach and develop others.
Finally, those who use the expression “say more” will find themselves surrounded by a growing number of independent thinkers who are capable of drilling down and taking ideas to the next level. Using this phrase will certainly ensure richer and more productive conversations, leading to mutual benefit in the future.
In today’s fast-paced, intake-overloaded, noise-filled world, people crave the opportunity and welcome the invitation to think more deeply and share more of what’s on their mind. And that invitation is as simple as posing a two-word prompt. Need I “say more”?
Learn more about my new book, “Promotions Are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development – Help Employees Thrive,” scheduled for release March 8, 2022.
Julie Winkle Giulioni is a champion of growth and development in the workplace, helping leaders and organizations optimize the potential of their people. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, she’s the co-author of the international bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want” and a forthcoming book, “Promotions Are So Yesterday,” published by ATD Press. Learn more about her work at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.