What is it that causes some people to ignore your suggestions, even when you clearly have their best interest in mind? Better yet, how can you shift your language to get a better response from those you are trying to help?

Minutes after expressing my interest in doing a half Ironman, Joleen, a woman who has completed three Ironman’s herself, was taken aback by my new goal.

A half-Ironman?” she gasped, clearly irritated, “Go do a thirty-mile bike ride, put your bike in your car, and then go run for two hours. See how you do,” she said with a palpable irritation.

Having recently gone from fear of swimming, to swimming three-miles in the open water in fifteen weeks, I thought it was time for a new challenge. Why not a half-Ironman?

 “You need to take baby steps!” she demanded, “Go do a sprint triathlon first!”

“But I like the ring of Ironman better,” I said, with a smile beaming ear-to-ear, “It sounds tougher!”

“You do a disgrace to both the Ironman and triathlon communities,” she said, as her right eye started to twitch.


A disgrace to the communities? Really?

Convinced she must be kidding, I asked her, “Wait a minute… Are you serious?”

This was about the time that I realized my blood pressure was raising right alongside hers, and it occurred to me that I needed to shift the conversation quickly. So I took a deep breath and said, “Wait, wait! This is about my excitement and my new challenge, nothing more.”  

She took a step back, changed her posture to a more open/less aggressive, and then shared a passionate story about a guy who bought a five thousand dollar bike for a triathlon, only to quit two strokes into the swim portion.

Okay, I understood her concern, but “A disgrace?” Clearly I was still reacting to her words, and not understanding her intentions. Certainly it was not to rain on my parade.

Your language, whether in business or with friends, matters! If she first sought to uncover what I know about these types of events (nothing) she would have had a perfect opening to teach me. Said simply, learning would have taken the place of irritation.  

Beyond the head butting of the various generations, I see this very conflict happen in business often- except it usually sounds something like: “You don’t know what you’re doing,” or “Don’t they know they’re suppose to_____?,” or “They clearly don’t want to be successful here.”

We all want to be successful. It’s simply that we don’t always see the roadblocks we’re putting in our own way. Instead of unintentionally raining on my parade, the following are a few questions that could have led better results for both Joleen and me (adapt them to your situation):

  • ·      Why do you want to do a half-Ironman?
  • ·      Do you know the difference between a triathlon and an Ironman? Do you know the history?
  • ·      Can I share with you some of my lessons learned, having done both triathlons and Ironman’s?
  • ·      Based on what you’ve learned, what do you think is your next best step? Why?
  • ·      How can I help you reach success with your goal?

Rather than squash their enthusiasm (and naiveté), consider getting on their side of the fence first, discovering what they know, and then offering to help them reach their goals.  

We all want to be successful. Whether it’s in communicating, or reaching our goals, we want to come across in a positive manner, and we certainly want to be successful.

Join The Conversation: Have you ever wanted to knock someone out for squashing your enthusiasm? What did you do about it?


Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

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