A mentor and instructor of mine during his training sessions often discusses his methodology for preparing speeches and trainings. Almost every time, someone in the room asks him to give a detailed account of his process. He does. Then they go off and try to duplicate his process. Inevitably, that person comes back later and complains that they can’t put together a good speech/training. Here is where the person got tripped up, “A” versus “The.”
A client I worked with used to fall into the same trap. During meetings, he was constantly saying, “We have got to find the way to ____________.” He would ask around the room, but ideas were few and far between. Most weren’t very good. His intentions were good, but inadvertently he shut down the room. His problem was “A” versus “The.”
So, just what is the problem with “The?” “The” implies one, as in singular, solution. It implies there is one correct or best way and that all other ways aren’t effective or acceptable or worthy or good or… “The” creates a filter which stifles creativity, problem solving and generally shuts people down.
By switching one little word, a tiny article of speech, from “the” to “a” all sorts of possibilities are unlocked. “A” implies many solutions, many paths, different ways to approach things; “A” stimulates creativity and ingenuity.
“A” way to prepare for speeches might work great for one person, but a different way works better for someone else. No one way, many ways. Find what works best for you.
Finding “A” way to ________invites many ideas and encourages exploration and discussion. Not one way, there are many solutions. Find the ones that might work.
“A” invites. “The” discourages. “A” participates. “The” eliminates. “A” opens. “The” closes.
The next time you are trying to do something, figure something out, plan the next, instead of asking yourself, “What is the way to do this?” Ask yourself, “What is a way to do it?”