How ‘Help me out here’ is a great phrase for screw-ups

 In Message creation

Imagine that you missed a deadline that you promised you would deliver on. You see you boss approaching your desk. He says, ‘Hey (their name) got a minute?’

What initial language would make you less defensive about the missed deadline. ‘Help me out here’ or ‘You missed the deadline’The phrase help me on a bulletin board

A while back I was reading the New York Times Corner Office column by Adam Bryant. One of the CEOs Bryant interviewed, said when he has to handle a performance matter with a direct or other report, he uses the starter phrase ‘Help me out here’.

My recollection of CEO’s advice was that the phrase helped reports lower their defenses and anxiety, and prompt a quicker resolution of the action that should be taken regarding the matter.

My reflection on the ‘Help me out here’ phrase is that it is deceptively powerful. On the face of it, it sounds like the boss is the person who is ill-informed and not in the know. It frames the interaction where help is going to be provided. In the actual interaction the report will help the boss understand the missed deadline.

Then the boss will help the report in handling the matter, or preventing it in the future, or even give stronger feedback depending on the specific person and situation.

However, the ‘Help me out here’ starts the interaction in a leveling, even manner – even though the interaction may end in the report receiving very direct feedback for improvement.

Recently clients in a Listen and speak under pressure workshop found the phrase helpful in calling out a sales rep who was obviously fudging his numbers, rather than getting hot under the collar from the rep’s deceit.

You CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post: Trial the ‘Help me out here’ starter phrase in safe situations when something has gone awry. Reflect on how it worked and if it worked well, have it at the ready in your semantic toolbox.

Check out another Choice Voice lesson from Bob Carr

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