Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wyoming Two-Step: An Effective Way to Delicately Dance Around Difficult Work Issues and Still Get Results

Many years ago I developed a process that helps people be more receptive to receiving feedback. It also helps to fend off defensiveness when disagreements arise.

Typically when conflict flares the parties involved tend to go head to head, each stubbornly pressing his or her point, hoping forcefulness in tone will cause the other party to listen. But when neither side is willing to give way few issues get resolved.

I’ve found that before you can get others to be receptive to your opinions or ideas you first must be responsive to theirs. To put your ideas forward you must be willing to step back.

I call this technique The Wyoming Two-Step. I’m originally from Wyoming and the concept has two steps, so it seemed like a novel name to me.

The two critical steps of The Wyoming Two-Step are, first ACKNOWLEDGE and then INFORM.

Whenever anyone shares an idea or has an issue with you, first express awareness of the other person’s opinion, idea or perspective. Accept the fact that his or her opinion is valid, the idea has merit, and their perspective is accurate to them.

State up front where you agree with their opinion or idea. Certainly some of their points must be reasonable and valid. Identify the mutual ground first. Restate the other person’s salient points before expressing your personal views.

Once you’ve acknowledged the legitimacy of the other person’s concerns you will be in a better position to inform them of your stance.

There are several very important things you need to understand when you inform others of your views. In order for another person to be receptive to your ideas or opinions they obviously need to know what your position is. But, more important, before they can commit to your view they must fully understand WHY you perceive things the way you do. Provide the background information that led to the formulation of your unique perspective. Before others can see things as you see them they need to know what you know and discover how and why you know it.

They also need to know why they should accept your position. To sway people to your position you need to state the positive results that will be achieved by accepting your view. Help them buy-in to your position by stating the results they can expect if they do what you want.

After the whats, whys, and results have been stated, you should check to see if they accept and/or understand of your position. You may not always get people to accept your perspective. The best you may be able to do is get them to understand your position or idea. Sometimes people can’t agree but the issue still can be resolved if both parties understand each other.

Employees and teenagers don’t always accept what their boss or parents tell them. Arguments ensue when there are conflicting points of view. But there is no need to butt heads. As issues arise merely step back. Acknowledge the other person’s perspective. State where you are in agreement and rephrase those points to emphasize your mutual understanding.

When you have accepted, or at least understood, the other person’s view they will be more inclined to hear you out as you inform them about your perspective. This mutual give and take — stepping back and stepping forward — creates an atmosphere of listening and open communication. It leads to better understanding and a greater chance of real acceptance and real commitment to your ideas.

It may take some practice, but eventually you will master the Wyoming Two-Step. Once you do, you and others will be dancing to the same tune.

The Wyoming Two-Step:


Express awareness of the other person’s opinion, idea or perspective.

State where you are in agreement

Restate the valid points of the other person’s opinion, idea or perspective.


State your own opinion, idea or perspective. Be sure to explain both what and WHY.

State the results the other person can expect from accepting your opinion, idea or perspective.

Check for acceptance and / or understanding of your position.

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