Permissive Statements

Open in LondonCreative Commons License Nicolas Hoizey via Compfight

I usually can tell you the chapter and verse of where I first encountered a concept.  For the life of me I can’t remember where I first came across permissive statements, and yet, I can’t let my lack of memory stop me from sharing the concept with you.

Permissive statements are statements you make to allow people to behave a certain way in their encounters with you.  They give them an opening to do a behavior they wouldn’t necessarily do for fear of some negative consequences or a lack of ever considering the possibility that the behavior would be okay to you.

Note: Permissive statements are most powerful when followed up by your consistent actions. Let me demonstrate.

“Feel free to give me honest feedback,” I say.

You say, “I don’t like your blog because you talk too much about yourself.”

“You’re absolutely right.  Sometimes I struggle to get out of my own head,” I humbly reply.

The point of the permissive statement is to declare to your audience that they should feel comfortable to exhibit some behavior in front of you without fear of retribution.  You’ve opened a new door for them.

“Feel free to speak up regardless of your rank in the organization if you have something to say.”

“Feel free to share this information with anyone you think would be interested in learning more.”

“Feel free to hold me accountable in front of the group if I haven’t met an obligation.”

“Feel free to ask questions.”

Can you see the pattern?

“Feel free to…”

Now, you can start your permissive statement in other ways, but the point I want to drive home is that by providing these permissive statements before the situation requires them you have made the action non-threatening for the other person but you haven’t compelled them to act.

You didn’t say, “Hold me accountable in meetings.”

You said, “Feel free to hold me accountable in meetings.”

See the difference.  People don’t seem to remember orders the same way they remember offers of permission.

When they are faced with a situation where they want to hold you accountable, into their head will spring the statement, “Feel free to…” and they are more likely to do what you’ve asked for.

I’ve tried this technique for years and achieved much success with it.  I won’t say that in all situations the other person took me up on my offer to hold me accountable, or share information, or speak up, but I know more people did than would have without the statements.

Use permissive statements.

Practice them.

Repeat them.

Live them (the toughest part).

You’ll see a lot more action, participation, and energy out of those around you.

Why not try?

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  1. Pingback: Assurances « Engine For Change

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