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Posted by on Sep 23, 2010

I’m Interested in That

Occasionally, a practice comes along that seems to cut through a lot of the normal confusion and noise at work, and genuinely helps people communicate and get work done.

The practice described here is very simple, except when it gets hard. Why it might be hard is explored below.

The practice is to simply say, “My interest in this is . . .”

So what is an interest?

An interest is why you want something. It’s the motivator behind action, the value or belief upon which you are saying or doing something. It greatly facilitates communication by helping others understand the why behind your what.

For example, if you want to see a report by 5:00, you can say, “I’d like to see the report by 5:00. My interest is in having enough time to read it before I have to pass it on.”

Or, “Can we invite Joe to the meeting? My interest is in asking him about his experience with projects similar to ours.”

You can probably already see, particularly in the second example, how not disclosing your interests might lead to misinterpretation. People often rush to fill in motives of others when they don’t have any actual ones.

For example, there could be many reasons you might want Joe in the meeting. Others might think you want him there because he supports your position on a contentious issue. Or because he’s your buddy. Or because you don’t know what to do about the issue.

The point is, imagined interests will rush in to fill any voids.

One client I worked with once said, “I learned as a leader that if I don’t tell people my story, they’ll make one up for me.”

This practice has another aspect to it that is more difficult. If you ever find yourself in a position of doing or wanting something for reasons that are not compatible with the organization’s, it will be very hard to talk about.

For example, if you want to delegate something because you don’t like to do that particular piece of work, or you don’t invite someone to a meeting simply because they have a different point of view, then that is going to be very hard to explain to others.

Revealing interests increases transparency, trust and communication. Practice saying, “My interest in this is . . .”

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