Exaggeration Makes a Powerful Point
People can sometimes make claims or offer comments in team meetings that seem unconnected to reason. These comments often arise from strong feelings and passion. Flooded with emotion, these statements can be heard as unsavory, inflammatory, or alarming. Leaders are confronted with the challenge of setting the record straight or lowering the temperature of the comment so everyone can consider the idea without the embroidery.
Extreme statements are familiar to us all: “We stand the risk of losing all of our customers over this.” “Only a novice would make that argument.” “Making that decision is unconscionable.” “No one in the marketplace who cares about their business is making that call.” “We all need to see a psychiatrist if we follow that strategy.” “Without an automated process, we will drop every ball over time.”
Walking a speaker back from an extreme comment can turn messy. Good leaders reciprocate in order to make the point that the comment is over the top. When people say extreme things, responding with an equal exaggeration can make a powerful point to put matters back into perspective.
This can also add levity to the discussion. “We should probably look for jobs since all of our customers will be leaving us.” “We all know our decisions are commonly evil.” “We certainly don’t care about our business, so making that call sounds smart.” “A psychiatrist would have a field day with our team and strategy.” “We can rest assured that automated processes solve every problem forever.”
When people clearly exaggerate their advocacy, sometimes the best strategy is to respond in kind. This makes it clear that the exaggeration is both unwarranted and unappreciated. Leaders don’t allow extreme statements to stand. At times, they illustrate how silly these statements really are by making an equally exaggerated assertion. We can’t believe you didn’t know this already! You must be daft!
Oh, by the way…
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