One conversation decision to rule them all

There are so many decisions we need to make for conversations to go well. These decisions could range from listening to being constructive to being thoughtful about what we say. However, I’ve come to realize there is one conversation decision to rule them all.

And, that decision is whether or not to take it personally.

If we don’t explicitly make that decision, we might react defensively to everything that is being said. And, once we do that, it is very hard to recover. But, decide not to take it personally and we give ourselves the opportunity to listen, to understand, to be thoughtful and to respond constructively.

The key to making this decision is understanding that the issue is rarely about us. We might have contributed to it. But, it is unlikely it is about us unless we decide to make it so. The quicker we get out of the way, the sooner we can move to prompt resolution.

We have conversations very often. We might as well learn to do them well.

Making policy decisions

A big part of being a good decision maker is learning how to make good policy decisions. Good policy decisions have, among other things, two attributes –

1. They understand the downstream consequences. You don’t create policy for the short term. So, policy makers spend time thinking about the downstream consequences.
2. They minimize exceptions. In doing so, decision making in the future can go on auto pilot.

As a simple example – a friend once asked me to share a list of the best books I read. So, I put the list down in a word document and sent it. Another friend then asked me for the list with a few notes on the books I recommended. A few months later, I got a similar request from another friend. Every time I got one of these requests, I groaned. Sometimes, I did justice and gave them what they wanted and, other times, I just forwarded them an older version of the list.

It only hit me a few months later that I’d be better off with a system solution. That’s how my book review blog was born. It made sense as it was one of those decisions that had very good downstream consequences. And, most importantly, it put all book recommendation requests on auto pilot.

This isn’t an easy thing to do, however. And, I find myself forgetting to do this regularly. But, if done well, it can help us become better decision makers.

So, every time you have a decision to make, don’t just make the decision. Instead, ask yourself how you should approach the decision by asking yourself how you would treat similar requests. Then, create a system/policy for similar kinds of decisions. Sometimes, all it takes is an extra minute of thought. That extra minute can save a lot of time downstream..

Re-framing no

We often face great difficulty saying no to new opportunities. This is typically due to one of 2 reasons –
1. These opportunities offer clearer short term rewards – e.g., a bit of extra money or instant gratification
2. We don’t like saying no – we prefer to be liked vs. attempting to be respected for our choices

There is a link between the two reasons because if the rewards of saying no are blindingly obvious, it is hard to not say no. It is when the rewards are fuzzy that it becomes harder to make the like-respect trade-off. The problem with this is that we often neglect the most important things in favor of short-term wins. Clayton Christensen often talked about how it takes parents nearly two decades to see the results of the time invested in their kids. I think that is the case for most great relationships. They take consistent investments for a long period of time. They degrade similarly as well. We don’t see it coming.. until it does.

An idea that could help make it easier to say no would be to re-frame it and think about what you are saying yes to. By saying no to answering email in the evening, we would be saying yes to quality time with our loved ones, for example. By saying no to that extra project, we’d be saying yes to sleep, exercise, and better personal health. By doing this, we pay attention to the real trade-offs.

And, where there is awareness of trade-offs, there is likely a good decision that is being made.

Andrew Hallam’s car buying technique – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea from The Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam and Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Andrew Hallam, a school teacher and self-made millionaire, became wealthy with careful control over his spending (and consistent investing in index funds). One of his decision making strategies is to attain distance before making big spending decisions.

For example, in 2002, when he was ready to buy a car, Andrew refused to let himself be hoodwinked by fast talking car salesmen at the store. So, first, he decided exactly what he wanted in a used car: namely, a Japanese car with a stick shift, original paint, fewer than 80,000 miles, and a walk-out price of less than $3,000. He didn’t want a new paint job because he worried that it might hide rust spots or damage from accidents and he didn’t care about the age or model of the car.

He then called up second hand car sellers and told him what he wanted. Many baulked at his request. But, a few days later, one of the showroom offered a second hand Japanese model that had just arrived at their store for $3000. Andrew went to the store, inspected the car and walked out with the car.

As Andrew attests, attaining distance is a great way to make good decisions.

AndrewHallam car buying

Source and thanks to:

“Imagine wandering onto a car lot…. A sharply dressed salesperson will soon be courting you through a variety of makes and models… a minnow like me needs an effective strategy against big, hungry, experienced fish.” | Andrew Hallam