Use your words!

How often do you share your thought process when you’re asked a question? If you’re like me, and in a permanent state of feeling pressed for time, you don’t do so nearly enough. What’s the downside? Your kids and your employees miss out on a chance to learn from you. And you might not discover that you missed key information when forming your decision. So, use your words at every opportunity!

A few weeks ago, my teenage son and I were in my car on our way to a nearby town. He was behind the wheel, taking advantage of the opportunity to practice driving. When he asked me if we had enough gas to get to our destination, I glanced over at the fuel gauge, saw that we had about 1/4 of a tank, and replied with a quick “Yes.”

I don’t know why, but I didn’t share my thought process with him. That I estimated it was 10-15 miles to the town. That my fuel gauge displays a warning when there is only one gallon left. And that, since my car gets about 25 miles to the gallon and we had more than a gallon left, we had plenty of gas for our trip. Instead, I just told him yes, we’d be fine.

A few minutes down the road, I started to think about what would happen if my son was driving by himself and was wondering if he had enough gas to get somewhere. Realizing I’d missed out on a teaching moment, I turned to him and explained my thought process. His response was a surprise: “But Mom, the reason I asked in the first place was because the fuel gauge warning light came on!” I had to laugh at myself; I hadn’t seen the light! Fortunately, we made our way to a gas station before hitting empty.

As you can tell from my story, sharing your thought process not only teaches others how you break down problems, but can also help avoid surprises. And it’s equally applicable to parenting as well as leadership.

Starting today, I’m making a personal pledge to share my thought process whenever I answer a question. How about you?

–Karen

© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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