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March 10, 2016

Say What They’re Thinking

Here’s a scenario that happens all the time. I bust into Jeremy’s office (my leader) and shout excitedly and entirely too loud, “Hey Jeremy! I know I have 500 ideas a minute, and I know I drive you crazy with...

Say What They're Thinking

Here’s a scenario that happens all the time.

I bust into Jeremy’s office (my leader) and shout excitedly and entirely too loud, “Hey Jeremy! I know I have 500 ideas a minute, and I know I drive you crazy with my never-ending ideas, but I think this can be a good one. What do you think about (fill in the idea of the minute here)?”

I used to think that I was just being myself—crazy, passionate and always too loud. But recently, I realized that I’m actually exercising a very valuable skill in those moments: self-awareness.

Everyone talks about the importance of self-awareness. After coaching leaders across the country, I can tell you that self-awareness is one of the most valuable traits that you can have for likeability and success (which are directly correlated by the way). We all know that we need to be self-aware, but it’s hard to understand or demonstrate.

Here’s what I’ve learned through the years: Self-awareness is knowing how you come across to others.

It’s not how you intend to come across. It’s how you actually come across. Self-awareness is seeing how others perceive you.

When you know how you come across to others, first and foremost, you can adjust your behavior accordingly. When people are scooting their rolling chairs away from me or holding their ear and wincing in pain during a meeting, I can take a hint and make an effort to talk quieter. Self-awareness allows you to leverage your strengths and correct your weaknesses.

But sometimes you want to be you and be loud, right? RIGHT! (Or quiet if that’s your thing.)

In those situations, a fun way to stay true to yourself but still demonstrate self-awareness is to say what the other person is thinking.

I’ve realized that I do this all of the time.

Before, I would bust into Jeremy’s office and say, “Hey! Guess what! I’ve got an idea!” I made it sound like this was the first time it had ever happened. And he probably thought, “Oh God, here we go again.”

Now, I start by saying what I know he’s thinking. “Hey! I know I have 500 ideas a minute, and I know I drive you crazy . . .”

When you say what the other person is thinking, it does several valuable things.

1. It actually gives you credibility through your self-awareness.

2. When you’re playful and sarcastic, it makes the other person laugh. That’s always a good start.

3. It disarms the other person. They realize you’re fully aware of not only how you’re acting, but what they’re thinking. It shows strong relational and communication skills.

4. It takes the pressure off of them to call you out, because you’ve already done that for them. That also gives them permission to respond accordingly. Jeremy has said to me many times, “That’s a good idea. We can consider that in the future. You do have a lot of ideas and right now, we are maxed out trying to execute all of the ideas you’ve already come up with.” It’s a lot less awkward to call out yourself than have someone else call you out.

5. When you make fun of yourself, it makes the situation light and fun.

I’m not saying that calling out what someone is thinking is an excuse to always interrupt your boss and never work on your weaknesses. You can use the knowledge you have to improve in those areas as you grow as a professional and person.

But when you’re just being typical you—whether that’s timid and bashful, or in my case, loud and excitable—this quick trick can help you build rapport and relationships.

So the next time everyone around you is giving you some cues, go ahead and say what they’re thinking. Then have a good laugh and keep moving on to your next idea!

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