How I Learned to Recognize Others When Building on Ideas
It was after 10:00pm and I was finally on my way home after a long, drawn out governance meeting. On our way to our cars, another participant turned to me and made a comment.
“Did you notice how everyone agreed with you after you basically repeated what I’d just said?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I played it off with a self-deprecating comment. But in the car, I began to consider her question.
Obviously, it was not really a question. There was a message there, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Was she accusing me of taking credit for her idea? Blaming others for ignoring her? Complimenting me on my skills as a communicator?
Then I thought back on the point she was referencing. She had articulated an idea as part of a much longer set of comments on a range of topics. It was not a rambling diatribe, but it was a lot of information. A few minutes later I did say essentially the same thing – but differently.
I had paid close attention in order to understand what she was trying to say, and I just restated it more clearly. And when I did, that was the only point I made. I thought I was helping her but based on her comment she probably didn’t see it that way.
By the time I got home I had decided the comment was an invitation for me to offer her feedback on her communication style and how to improve it. But the following day as I continued to mull it over, I thought better of it. I decided the lesson here was for me, not for her.
By embracing and restating it, I had inadvertently made it seem like her idea was mine. I stole her thunder. Had I recognized her in my comments as the originator of the concept it would have provided her with a sense of validation and inclusion – building our shared energy around the idea instead of diminishing it.
There is a lot going on in these meetings, but now I look for opportunities to recognize the people who share ideas I support. If you are interested in building commitment around ideas you care about, consider doing so as well.
I’m not sure if it will help end a long and contentious meeting any sooner, but it will definitely expand your influence and maybe even prevent an awkward interaction in the parking lot after the meeting.