Culture, Leadership, Management, Ownership

Isn’t That Interesting?


When I mentioned to my assistant today that I needed to write a blog post, she replied, “Well, what is people’s pain these days? Write about that!” With a smirk, I told her that I didn’t want to get political and she and I went on to have a pretty lively discussion about the candidates. Although we didn’t come out and say it, I got the feeling that we were of the same mindset which came as a relief. Nothing like working in a small, two-person office and being at complete odds with one another.

But what about the rampant disagreements that are clogging up your Facebook page? “Your candidate is an idiot!” “Your candidate sucks!” And worse. Friendships are broken, even families can splinter when the members are on opposite sides of the fence. Every year, it seems that the back biting and insults get worse when, in truth, it’s been this way for 200 years.

When I was in architecture school, my fellow students and I would often question one particular professor about one building or another to elicit his opinion about said building. “What do you think of Lake Point Tower?” Tilting his head and stroking his well-trimmed beard, he’d thoughtfully and quietly reply, “It’s interesting.” Interesting? That’s it? We were stymied by his response but now, 50 years later, I’ve come to appreciate these two seemingly innocuous – and admittedly somewhat frustrating – words and I teach them to my coaching clients today.

The potential uses are endless and should be a part of every-day communication skills. It can be used in business settings, family settings, one-on-one relationships and the list goes on. Use it when someone tells you something that you don’t believe in or agree with. Let’s face it: our goals in provoking an argument is to get the other person to be on your side. More often than not, it has the opposite effect.

So let’s take a look at how we can incorporate “That’s interesting!” into today’s volatile political arena:

Ranting person: “Idiotface candidate is a lame-brained jerkhead who would take this country into world war III!” or “Moron is a bald-faced liar!”

You (rakishly tilting your head and thoughtfully stroking your chin): “Hmmmmm…. that’s interesting!”

Ranting person: “YEAH! Uh………”

See? You’ve managed to acknowledge ranting person’s tirade while not giving him fuel for the fire. Chances are, he’ll either keep ranting, to which you keep replying, “That’s interesting!” or he’ll walk away. In essence, he’s inviting you to an argument but you’re not accepting the invitation.

When applied to business, it can enhance brainstorming sessions, make meetings more effective and inclusive, and from the receiver’s side, defuse potentially negative performance reviews. Just be sure not to overuse it or it can be construed as passive aggression. But the thoughtfulness and learning behind it just may teach you something.

And isn’t that interesting?

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