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I apologize to all those readers who require good grammar in a post title. However here’s the point: how many “exactly” phrases do you typically get in your conversations? See what happens when you get two.

It is a fun and interesting game that has a direct, beneficial result for you.

The game: try to get the other person to say “exactly” twice or more in a conversation without you making it obvious. If you correctly understand what the other person is communicating, then you should be able to repeat back to them some similar re-statement of what they are saying; or better, you give an example that relates to the situation they are describing in such as way they will say “exactly!” or something similar as a confirmation.

Unfortunately, I’m sure you have had the opposite experience. You may have seem a movie or read a book or blog post that really intrigued you. So you share your thoughts with your co-worker and they say something like, “Yeah, really” or “Oh, I know.” What’s lacking is there’s is no specific confirmation that your sharing was actually understood. It leaves a hole in the communication. “Exactly” fills those holes by confirming that you understood and acknowledged the other person’s point. And for the other person, it builds trust that you really are listening. That in turn, makes your sharing more interesting. More engaging. Now you really have a conversation!

The direct benefit to you is it helps you stay focused on the conversation and helps you actively listen to the other individual.

More importantly, it helps you build trust at a very rapid pace. If the other person feels that they are truly being heard, they are more likely to open up and share something that is truly deeper for them or maybe they share something that you really need to be aware of that may impact decisions you make today.

After doing this a while, you become more aware of whom you are willing to invest your time to get two “exactly” returned as part of the conversation. For example, a while back, I noticed that some of my direct reports never said exactly to me. Then, I became more aware of how I had not been giving them enough attention as their manager. I started keeping a list of how many times each direct report gave me an “exactly” during the week. (At an advanced level, you do this counting daily. Simply, each direct report must say “exactly” to you once a day, or else you are either not spending enough time with them or not listening actively enough to them. It is amazing what you hear when you are really listening!)

People who had low “exactly” numbers meant I either wasn’t spending enough time with them or I was not really listening to them simply because I was preoccupied with own my stuff and not paying attention. Not a good sign as a manager. Don’t be that person.

Frankly, this process has changed my management style from merely being a project or task manager to being a results manager. That means people are willing to work harder for me because they feel understood and appreciated. Low performers are more willing to open up to me now and we can discuss what is holding them back. High performers are more willing to be innovative and “out-of-the-box” risk-takers because they feel that at least they will be heard if it doesn’t work out right or ends with unexpected results.

As an executive coach, I instruct my clients to use this approach. Try this “exactly” game and let me know how it works for you.