Facilitation Antipattern: The Qualifier

Posted by Doc
Feb 04 2009

qualifierMotto: Better safe than sorry.
Belief: If I don’t assert it, you can’t challenge me for it. And if you do, I can always backpedal.
Behavior: Qualifies statements with words/phrases like “sort of”, “kind of”, “about”, “just”, “basically”, “actually”
Characteristics: Tentative, somewhat defensive, somewhat insecure

While this is an antipattern, it’s a subtle one. After all, how damaging or destructive can it be to say “I kind of think that…”

This applies both in group participation and in presentation. The qualifiers – kind of, sort of, about, just, basically, actually – take away from the value of what is being said.

And, as I said, it’s subtle. The subtlety is that when I say “I sort of think you should do X”, it comes across as uncertain. First, that puts everything else I say into doubt, since I sound like I’m not really sure. Second, my listeners are subconsciously taking what I’ve said from an assertion – I think you should – to a question – Do you think you should – which also shifts the responsibility.

Of course, what the qualifiers also do is leave me an out. If challenged, I can say “Well, I didn’t say you should, I said I kind of think you should.”

Why leave an out? Why not commit?

In a group dialogue, it is important to recognize that the value of each contribution is affected by the words we use and the way we say things.

Don’t qualify unless there’s a very good reason to qualify.

One Response

  1. jeff patton says:

    Thanks for this. Good reminder of a sin I’m sort of guilty of. 😉

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