When ‘Please Proceed’ Digs Your Counterpart A Deep Hole…

If you haven’t encountered such a situation already, no doubt you will at some point during your management career.

There will come a time when one of your colleagues is so connected to getting their point across to an audience (which could be your boss, peers and/or stakeholders), that they unwittingly shoot themselves in the foot..and boost your own personal credibility in the process.

This brief clip from the U.S. presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is one such instance of how keeping quiet, not being drawn in to validating the counterpart’s claim, and using two very powerful yet simple words ‘Please proceed’ can uncover inaccuracies, demonstrate good manners, and, instil fear and uncertainty in the individual making the allegation.

The title of the clip includes ‘lying’, an emotive word in itself. Perhaps Senator Romney just got his facts wrong on this occasion. But observe what happens when Obama declines to be drawn into any kind of defensive response, and instead simply responds ‘Please proceed governor’. Romney’s confidence suddenly heads South. His credibility and standing is further brought in to question when the moderator of the debate quietly states that Obama did not actually say what Romney claims. And once again, Obama politely and calmly requests that the moderator repeat more loudly what she just said to Romney….that Obama did not say what Romney is claiming.

How does this example relate to you and your credibility and standing in your organisation? Have there been occasions when you have been accused of something and even though you knew the claim to be false or inaccurate, you immediately defended yourself and your position on the matter? If you have, it’s completely understandable. Perhaps next time, do what Obama did so elegantly, and invite the accuser to continue with their tirade. But remember, this should be done where the facts are verifiable rather than simply with opinions.