Tea or Coffee? Black or White?

I’m travelling by train as I write this and the offer is made. Tea or coffee? Black or white? It’s a typical way of interacting, offering limited choices to enable quicker decision making. However, it made me think about how I hold conversations and how I can improve my coaching style.

It’s all to do with that little word ‘OR’, which can have its downsides. When I engage with others and use ‘OR’ I’m limiting choices, stifling creativity and not stretching the leaders that I coach. Offering ‘OR’ can make us lazy in our responses. Is it not better sometimes to say, ‘What kind of drink would you like? This simply broadens the options. So, I’m challenging myself not too fall into the trap of steering a conversation and aim to be more creative.

Why is it that I often use ‘OR’? Is it because I’m not courageous enough to simply say for example …‘Can you help me with this?’ Rather than… ‘Can you help me with this or are you too busy?’. Am I making assumptions about what the other person is thinking rather than giving them the space to respond in whatever way they like?

If I am to be more courageous and creative what is required of me?

  • The self-discipline to ask shorter questions.
  • The courage to pause and leave space for the person I am interacting with to respond.
  • The suspension of assumptions about what direction the conversation may go in.

I could ask… ‘Are you leave or remain?’. Well that’s no longer going to be my kind of question. More like … ‘How might we develop our relationship with our European neighbours?’.

What might emerge from dropping ‘OR’ out of my language? I’m looking forward to more surprising responses, more unexpected answers, and for conversations to be more meaningful.

And what about you? Might you choose to use ‘OR’ less frequently?

Now I’m wondering about the next time I travel to Edinburgh. Is it train OR car? !!!

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