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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 6/1/20 - Use two magic words to increase trust and connection

School leaders, like leaders in any organization, are pressed for time and sometimes answer questions too quickly. To build a better school culture SAM teams show what they value by slowing down, making eye contact and listening. Getting the other person to share can seem daunting, especially in a virtual setting.


In her book, Ask For More: Ten Questions to Negotiate Anything, mediation expert Alexandra Carter suggest using two magic words to start a real conversation. She refers to these two words as the “ultimate open question”.


What are the two magic words: tell me.


“No question unlocks trust, creativity, understanding and mind-blowing solutions like ‘tell me,’” Carter says in her book. Basically, it’s all about switching perspective. “It helps us move from a black-and-white (and often biased) view of a situation to what some negotiation experts have called a ‘learning conversation,’ where we grow in our understanding of an issue rather than remain stuck.”


SAM leaders can use these two words in a lot of different ways:

1. Tell me.

2. Tell me more.

3. Tell me about a win with a student this week.

4. Tell me how you are feeling. I know this is a stressful situation.

5. Tell me about the best part of your day.

6. Tell me about your most challenging student.

7. Tell me how I can help.


In fact, Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air told the New York Times that “tell me about yourself’ is the best thing to say to open up an interview or conversation.

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