The team was starting to make real progress with the new communicating principles but Boris just couldn’t see what the big deal was with not finishing off others’ sentences for them. After all, in this fast-paced world of ours, there just isn’t enough time….
Neil Rackham refers to this as one type of ‘shutting out’ in his Behaviour Analysis Model.
Actually, I used to be quite the avid fan of this particular behaviour. I felt it was a great way to show how engaged I was, how empathetic I was to the situation and that I was right on the very same page as the speaker….so much so that I could finish their sentence for them.
Then someone pointed out to me just how much I did this. Now that it was brought to my attention, it was undeniable. I had to start covering my mouth to stop myself doing it.
So why let people finish their own sentences? Here are a few good reasons….
Firstly, I realised that when someone else was speaking, I was in my head about how they would finish. So, I was not truly listening to them.
Secondly, I was often wrong in the way I concluded their sentence. This would leave a lingering awkwardness and them not wanting to be impolite and disagree with me. This was compounded by them not having said what they wanted to. Unless, on the rare occasion, they were confident enough to correct me ….eeekkkkk…. more awkwardness.
Thirdly, it can send a subtle message that you think they are not quite capable of finishing their own sentences or that you know better than they do what they think.
Fourthly, I found I saved time. People didn’t have to repeat themselves only this time with their own ending….
Finally, I learned a lot! I became frequently astounded by what the speaker went on to say, the solution they arrived at and the conviction with which they said it. That started a radical shift in me to become the kind of leader that interjects with the intention of getting others to think at their best for themselves… not to be the one that has all the answers.
Why is this so important to me?
If we want to be outstanding leaders that create other leaders around us, we need to make space for them to get there….. sometimes that means letting them finish their own sentence… all the way to the very end….. even if it means letting go of the need to be right.
When my son was around 3 years old, I started to notice that when his friends would pause to think about how they wanted to end a sentence, a kind adult would do it for them or the conversation would just move on without them having had the chance.
Often the child was left standing looking puzzled about what had just happened. I also noticed that when I would ask a young child a question, more often than not they wouldn’t even get close to a response because again a kind adult did it all for them. Woah!
There are many other reasons beside those above for stopping this annoying habit but for now, I would like to raise a challenge…. how about setting yourself the same challenge I did: aiming to not finish anyone’s sentences for the next week and compare whether they did use the same words you would have used?