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U Before C .

When you are sure you are right and someone else is wrong, try and understand them before attempting to convince them.

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Two simple rules I learned several years ago have stayed with me. And made a bit of a difference. One rule came from my English teacher. And the other from my father.

The first is a rule that taught me how to spell all those words that have an i and an e together. Which goes first? The i or the e? I am talking of words like believe, and foreign and receive. You might have learned the rule too: “i before e when the sound is ee, but not after c”. Remember this rule, and you will never spell those words wrong again.

The second rule is something that has shaped me as a person. And that rule is “U before C”. Understand before Convince. When you are sure you are right and someone else is wrong, try and understand them before attempting to convince them. Ditto when you are confident what the next step should be and a colleague disagrees. U before C – Understand the other person before trying to convince them. Remember this rule, and you will become a better leader and a nicer person to work with.  You will make better decisions too. Look around and you will see that in boardrooms, in public debates and even in WhatsApp groups, everyone is busy putting the C before U. 

Imagine you are trying to hire a candidate. You think it should be candidate A, your colleagues think it should be B. So what do you do? You rattle off the list of compelling reasons why you think A is the better option. You show your surprise at their inability to read the candidates right! 

Instead, you’d be better off if you first understood their concerns, and why they thought B was the better option. Understanding their view might help you notice an aspect of the candidate you may have overlooked. And because you’ve heard them out, and tried to understand them, your colleagues become more receptive to understanding your point of view. When you put U before C, both sides approach the decision from the lens of what’s right – rather than who’s right. And there’s the greater buy-in for the decision – even if there was a disagreement to start with.

Faced with dissent, even on minor, routine issues, we all tend to get busy trying to convince other people we are right. We gather the folks who agree with us – and isolate the voices that disagree. They become the ‘bad guys’. The non-believers. The guys who don’t get it. 

One more thing. As a leader, even if you have made up your mind,  hold the thought. Good leaders speak last. Don’t be in a hurry to put your view out there upfront. That puts too much pressure on your team to fall in line and agree. 

You can tell from the spelling mistakes in WhatsApp messages that people have forgotten the ‘i before e’ rule. But that’s no big deal. What’s sad is when you see people trying to convince you they are right and you are wrong. You want to remind them of that other, more important, rule. U before C. Always.

‘Understand before Convince’ might just be the secret to becoming a better leader and a better team player. And a better citizen too. In 2020. And beyond.

Happy new year!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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