A while back, I wrote the following story one of my clients shared about his experience with the unintended consequences of thinking out loud.
“I was sitting in my office with my VP of Operations. I was thinking aloud, wondering what we needed to do next to get to our growth goals. I was going on and on about my frustrations and concerns. The next day, he returned to my office and asked if I was planning to sell the company. He apparently had gone home and thought about what I had said all night.”
Recently, one of my clients shared a different thinking-out-loud story about the ripple effects.
My client was walking the floor of her office, and to engage with the team, she sat down with a couple of team members and shared her observations about their current process of servicing customers. Her intent was to learn their perspective and see if anyone had ideas to streamline the process. Instead, she heard from the direct manager of these team members the next day that they needed to change the process because of their conversation with “the boss” the previous day!
You may be thinking (silently?), so are you saying I want to be aware of what I am saying all the time? Yikes!!
My sense is the answer is yes. When we think out loud, sometimes we create expectations, alarm, or even actions we did not intend.
In my own experience, when I have the presence to say, ” I would like to hear your perspective, may I think out loud for a moment?” that frames the conversation. And then, I remind myself to craft the wrap-up so that my listener doesn’t take action based on our think-out-loud conversation unless I want them to. And sometimes, this pausing reminds me that in this circumstance, it is best to ‘zip it.’