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I recently got to thinking about words and it occurred to me that the most simple words can often be the most powerful. Small words used in error can cause difficulties, used correctly can be incredibly empowering.

The Oxford English dictionary describes the word “and” as “a conjunction used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly”.

As an introduction to his book “The Power of And versus the Tyranny of Or”, David Howitt quoted Einstein as follows:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Albert Einstein

In his work, the author explores the theory that, from a very early age our thinking is created to accept limits. We can be told that we are “good at languages” in school which often excludes an ability to excel at sciences, for example. So what if we replace the “or” with “and”, remove the limits of our received thinking - what possibilities would present themselves?

On a more practical level, picture a boardroom conversation that is going in circles and a particular issue or agenda is coming up against constant resistance. Why not consider adopting the simple three letters “AND”. This could open a whole new direction for the conversation and cut out unnecessary conflict.

For example compare the following two sentences:

1. “I concur with what you are saying BUT I wonder if we could examine this particular point”

2. “I concur with what you are saying AND I wonder if we could examine this particular point”

The first conveys a negative opinion of the other person’s standpoint and limits avenues for progress.
The second “And” approach opens an avenue for feedback and clarification, while making the person you’re speaking to feel that their contribution is valued and that they are listened to.

In Executive Search our clients trust us to assess potential candidates for their senior roles. A large part of this is, as far as possible, to assess not just the “rational” but also the “intuitive” mind that Einstein refers to. The competencies hidden in the “intuitive” mind include the ability of senior executives to read a room and to tailor their communication to get the best outcome. Our team of executive search consultants have learned over time to assess and benchmark these abilities in order to deliver the best selection of candidates to fit our clients’ requirements.

Articles by Caroline Baldwin