Stanger Pro Insights

When things go wrong, watch your language if you want people to be better next time

I watched a post-match interview recently with a football manager whose team just had a really bad day at the office.  He started by saying, “I’ll take responsibility for that performance…”.

What stuck in my mind was he said, “I’ll take…” rather than, “I take…”.  This made me feel he didn’t think the performance was his responsibility and only said he would because, as the man in charge, that was what was expected.  If I were one of his players (who do watch post-match interviews!), I’d question how willing he was to accept his role in what happened… and I’d also be worried if the person he actually felt was responsible was me!

How could this be useful for the rest of us?

By helping us recognise that if something goes wrong, whether it’s a sport performance, a project with colleagues or a parenting impasse, the heightened emotions the situation creates will make what you say much more likely to stick in people’s minds and will subsequently (and often subconsciously) set the tone for what happens next.

Understanding this and taking a minute to recognise your emotions and choosing your words very carefully (an extra apostrophe and two l‘s can make a big difference!) is crucial if what needs to happen next is for you to motivate people to stretch themselves and do what’s needed to improve rather than blame others or go into their shells.

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