What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say (Episode 9 of “How Do I Lead Now?”)

In Episode 9 of our Video Coaching Series: “How Do I Lead Now?” Cylient CEO Dianna Anderson talks about what to say when you don’t know what to say.

Now that we’re having more challenging, sometimes sensitive conversations with each other, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the conversation smoothly. Rather than not saying anything, when you don’t know what to say, you can do a few things to make people more comfortable. To make sure that everyone feels psychologically safe in these edgier conversations, there are a few things you can do:

Set the Intention to Be of Service

Whoever you are speaking with and whatever you are speaking on behalf of, you want to set the intention to be of service to them. You’re going to listen and respond in a really different way with this intention, rather than if you come into the conversation with your own agenda.

Couch More Challenging Questions

When you are about to ask a challenging, tough or awkward question, it can be really helpful to couch it. Before you ask the question, say something like, “Well, this might be an odd question, but…” Couching the questions before asking them helps people feel more comfortable right away.

Speak to Your Emotions

Sometimes people avoid conversations because they’re afraid of their own emotional response. This can be useful if you tend to get defensive or angry during conversations, but it can also be really useful to point toward whatever you’re feeling. Address the emotion by saying something like, “That’s a really interesting perspective. I find I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable about that,” and then speak to what that discomfort is. This can be a natural way to have a conversation about what the concern is.

Reflection Questions

Watch the video to understand some of the concepts of what to say when you don’t know what to say. Then, reflect on these questions:

  • Are there some sensitive conversations you have not been having?
  • Are there sensitive conversations that you’ve been having, but not at the depth that you need to?
  • What’s one thing you can do to step more confidently and compassionately into those conversations?

Comment below with your reflections, insights, observations or questions, and Dianna will respond to them.

Other Episodes of “How Do I Lead Now?”

Watch other episodes with the links below.

  • Episode 1: The difference between traditional leadership approaches and coaching-based leadership
  • Episode 2: What kind of leader do I need to be now?
  • Episode 3: How to meet people where they are
  • Episode 4: How to coach someone through fear
  • Episode 5: How to make friends with fear
  • Episode 6: Why the questions we ask and answer for ourselves really matter
  • Episode 7: Why intentions work better than goals now
  • Episode 8: Understanding and appreciating worldviews
  • Episode 9: What to say when you don’t know what to say
  • Episode 10: Using traditional and coaching-based leadership together
  • Episode 11: How to coach people to build confidence
  • Episode 12: Discerning patterns as a leadership skill
  • Episode 13: How to create change in complex situations
  • Episode 14: The problem with perfection

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