Friday, April 1, 2011

Avoiding the Gotcha Approach

It starts out as an innocent statement or question. It seems so innocent, you don’t really think about the answer.

Them: I think we should integrate our approach.

You: Yes, I think we should.

Seems so innocuous and rhetorical that you don’t really think about it. For some people, that would be the end of it. But, some people like to use that as a trap. Like a trap, it’s so unassuming that you don’t realize that there’s another question coming.

Them: So, I noticed that you did not include the western region in your presentation.

No matter how you answer that, it will look like your answers are inconsistent – Gotcha! This is particularly troublesome if it is done in public or in front of other people. You get embarrassed and are seen as either incompetent or a liar.

The more direct and professional approach would be for them to have asked directly why the western region was not included.

Them: I noticed that the western region was not included in your presentation. What were your thoughts on that?

It gets directly to the point and isn’t loaded with subterfuge. However, some people enjoy using the Gotcha approach to dealing with people. It’s a way of pointing out that they are smarter than you and a way to keep people in line by setting them up for a contradiction. It creates suspicion and distrust in the atmosphere. It's a way to hammer and intimidate people. They seem to take pleasure in pointing out other people's errors and inconsistencies, especially in public.

As a leader, honesty and transparency has to be a key element of your relationship with the people around you. Avoid the gotcha questions. If you have a question, ask it directly. Ask it as non-judgmentally as possible. Treat people with respect and compassion. Don’t make them out to be something they are not.

11 Words for 2011

Author and political consultant Frank Luntz offers 11 Phrases and Words for effective communinication. Check out this clip from Morning Joe. It's a good primer for leaders to learn from. Check out the book Win.