Skill 2: Jump In & Tell Me More

You’ve done it: you secured a very important meeting with an executive at your client company. 

So how do you ensure the meeting goes smoothly? 

You use Jump In & Tell Me More. 

Here’s why: company executives have two main complaints when meeting representatives from other companies.

1. “You don’t understand my business.”

(In other words, the representative only talks about their own business, or ask questions that show how little they know about the executive’s company)

2. “You don’t listen.”

(Meaning, the representative doesn’t act interested in what the executive says.)

One of the most valuable skills for building relationships and gaining insights is the ability to encourage others to share more information. Jump In & Tell Me More helps you clarify information, confirm understanding, gain deeper insight, and build mutually rewarding relationships.

The techniques described below are powerful ways to do just that—but be careful! The same skill may look different depending on the type of culture you’re working in.

Jumping In Is Necessary in Direct Communication Cultures

This skill is most important for people working in a direct communication culture. In a direct communication culture, follow-up questions or comments are a natural and necessary part of discussion. 

However, if you were raised in an indirect communication culture, asking questions can feel inappropriate or even impolite. This leaves many indirect communicators unsure of how to ask questions or make comments. Instead, they choose to remain silent. Do you know anyone like this?

But in a direct communication environment like an English-language meeting, this is a problem! From a direct culture standpoint, not asking questions can signal that: 

  • You completely understand the conversation.
  • You are not interested in the topic or the speaker. 

As a result, remaining quiet may unintentionally result in an awkward end to a conversation or meeting. Over time this can create long term damage to your work relationships, especially if those relationships are maintained only in English. But if you learn the skill, it can completely change your relationship with colleagues and customers!

In Indirect Communication Cultures, Don’t Thoughtlessly Jump In 

On the other hand, people raised in direct communication cultures are often chatty and may ask a lot of questions. If they go to work in an indirect communication culture, this chattiness may get them in trouble! Asking what is considered too many questions can damage the atmosphere of a meeting. Over long periods of time, if the direct communicator doesn’t adjust their communication style, it can harm or even end relationships. 

I met a direct culture employee in Tokyo who was informed that he need not join any further meetings. It was done very politely, but the message was clear: he was too direct and was disturbing the meetings.

Not knowing the proper way to ask questions and how to encourage others to share more may result in an unsatisfying end to a conversation or meeting.

What is Jump In & Tell Me More?

The Jump In & Tell Me More skill involves encouraging others to share more information and perspective. By using techniques like TED, repeating a few words, and summarizing, you can gain rich insights, confirm understanding, and build rapport. In fact, our founder Warren originally learned these techniques from his judo friend, a police detective in Canada!

How to Jump In & Tell Me More

Jump In & Tell Me More consists of three primary techniques: TED, repeat a few words, and summarizing. Before we review how to combine all three techniques, let’s go through them one by one.

Technique #1: TED (Tell, Explain, Describe)

TED is a popular technique used often by government officials and investigators all over the world. 

The TED technique consists of three easy-to-remember words that keep a conversation going and even allow you to dive deeper:

“Tell me…”

Examples: “Please tell me more about what happened.”

“Could you tell me more?”

“Explain…”

Examples: “Would you explain the expected timeline?”

“Please explain what you mean?”

“Describe…”

Examples: “Can you describe your budget expectations?”

“Please describe how you will manage risk.”

Some English speakers might argue that each word has a different meaning, and should be used in different contexts. However, at a day-to-day level, they are interchangeable. The following three sentences, for example, all communicate the same question: 

“Could you tell me the meeting agenda?”

“Could you explain the meeting agenda?”

“Could you describe the meeting agenda?”

You can REALLY power up TED by combining it with VCR (Value/Cost/Risk).

VCR is a tool that helps you create business-relevant questions. If you combine VCR with TED, you will have an easy way to create high-quality business-relevant questions. VCR helps you determine what to ask about, and TED helps you decide how to ask it.

This combination is most effective if you’ve either prepared or actively taken notes. Many SpeakUp DNA participants are surprised how preparing simple notes for meetings help them become more effective and confident in meetings.

Here are some examples of TED/VCR questions: 

1. Please tell me more about how this will increase revenues.

2. Can you explain how this will reduce costs?

3. Would you describe the risks to our customers? 

Any combination of TED & VCR is okay—try them all to see what’s most comfortable to you!

Technique #2: Repeat a Few Words

This technique is so simple that it seems fake. Repeating key words from what someone just said is an effective way to demonstrate active listening and invite them to expand.

Repeating the same words used by the other person helps you psychologically establish rapport, focus the conversation on more specific points, and gain a deeper understanding of the situation. 

To use this technique, simply repeat a few key words from what the speaker has just said. Make sure to say them like a question so the speaker knows you want them to continue speaking!

Example:

Laura: “Could you explain why you’re doing this project?”

Warren: “The reason we are doing this project is to bring a large social benefit to the community.”

Laura: “Large social benefit?”

Warren: “Yes; the project provides the community with a new public meeting space.”

Technique #3: Summarize

Summarizing shows you’ve been listening attentively and allows you to verify your understanding. It’s a powerful way to confirm you’re both on the same page before moving forward.

It’s also a great opportunity to use their own vocabulary. Psychological research has shown that people feel closer to those who use the same words and phrases that they do. By using your conversation partner’s vocabulary, you create a stronger relationship.

Here are some ways you can let your partner know that you’re about to summarize:

“If I’m summarizing correctly, you’re saying [brief recap]…”

  • Check if you grasped the overall meaning accurately. Be concise but hit the key points.

“Let me summarize what I’ve heard so far: [overview]…Did I miss anything?”

  • Comprehensively restate the main topics and specifics, then invite correction or additions.

Is Summarizing Risky?

Summarizing can feel risky—What if you accidentally misrepresent something or steer the conversation onto complex technical ground you can’t understand? 

Don’t worry: the purpose is not to conclude anything, but to confirm mutual understanding. As a result, it’s okay to stick to just the points you feel confident about. 

After verifying understanding, you can dive deeper into areas needing more exploration. Let your partner verify, correct or provide more information to avoid misunderstandings.

If you’re unsure about some points, use TED prompts like “Could you tell me more about [topic]?” to ask for more information.

Used well, summarizing allows the conversation to build towards shared understanding. Checking comprehension creates clarity—your partner feels heard and you confirm your understanding. This strengthens trust.

Important Point! 

You can really enhance your ability to summarize by taking notes. It can be extremely difficult to remember everything your conversation partner has said if you’re not writing it down. 

How to Combine All 3 Tell Me More Techniques

The process is straightforward:

  1. Request permission up front by saying “May I ask you a few questions?” It’s very difficult to answer “no” to this question, and it also allows the other party to mentally prepare to share more details. Psychologically, giving the listener the choice to say ‘no’ helps them feel safe and in control.
  1. Start with an open-ended TED prompt like “Please tell me about Y.” This kind of question encourages the other person to talk as long as they’d like.
  1. As they respond, create questions by repeating back key phrases (“End of Year KPIs?”) This shows active listening and gently prompts the other person to dive deeper on those points.
  1. Every once in a while, confirm the key points with “May I summarize to confirm my understanding?” Then, briefly review their core points so far. This demonstrates that you understand.
  1. Close by asking “Have I missed anything or is there anything you’d like to add?” This allows them to confirm, correct, or expand on your understanding.

With practice, Jump In & Tell Me More becomes a powerful tool for developing richer relationships and more productive conversations in any context. Make this a habit by using the technique regularly. You can even practice it in your own native language!

How does jumping in improve my work performance?

There are two main situations at work that are really improved by Jump In & Tell Me More are meetings, and workplace relationships.

Meetings

In meetings, using TED prompts, repeating key words, and summarizing helps create smooth discussions and mutual understanding. By using others’ language, following their narrative flow, and confirming comprehension, you build rapport and trust. This helps people feel heard and believed.

These techniques help you gain insight into different viewpoints of the meeting topics and challenges. Recapping with a summary solidifies the shared perspective between all parties by the end.

Workplace & Personal Relationships

Beyond just meetings, the versatile Jump In & Tell Me More techniques are valuable for deeply understanding customers, colleagues, and anyone else in a professional setting. 

Using the combination of TED prompts, repeating words, and periodic summarizing creates an environment where the speaker feels heard and you receive clarity. This open exchange strengthens rapport and trust in workplace relationships over time.

The greatest positive effect comes from not just the individual techniques, but the combination. Using all three techniques in combination, learning the words and language they use to define their viewpoints, all help to build trust, comfort, and confidence in the relationship.

This technique can be used outside of work, too. A SpeakUp DNA participant once used this skill with their teenage daughter to great effect!

What are the unwritten communication rules behind Jump In & Tell Me More?

Unwritten communication rules influence each and every one of our communication choices every day. Each of our communication skills, including Jump In & Tell Me More, all correspond to the unwritten rules that arise naturally in direct and indirect communication cultures. 

Communicating in Direct Environments

Direct Rule 10: When you don’t understand, ask questions to clarify the matter immediately.

In business, understanding the problem is key. This means that as long as you’re polite, you’re okay to jump in and ask for additional information right when you don’t understand. Remember,  in direct cultures, silence is a signal that means you understand!

Communicating in Indirect Environments

Indirect Rule 1: It’s important to be agreeable and to preserve harmony.

Rather than speaking up and jumping in right away during meetings, prioritize observing. Listen and get a feel for the atmosphere in the room. Speak when you can add to the harmony, generally by agreeing. Silence is fine and often most appropriate (even preferred) if you are new to the group or less senior than others. If you have concerns, it’s better to bring them up in a one-to-one conversation with an equal after the meeting.

Indirect Rule 4: Being present and speaking only when you have something meaningful to add is considered as positive participation.

Be patient and observe. Follow the cues of others who are already part of the group. How do they act and respond? Take notes rather than speak right away. Listening is usually more important. Wait to jump in until the timing is appropriate or you are called upon. 

This is especially true in indirect culture meetings. In indirect cultures, meetings are most often for formalizing decisions that have already been made, not for the process of making the decision. If you are hoping to speak up and add to a decision making process in the meeting, it is likely too late.

Indirect rule 10: When you don’t understand, wait until that person has finished speaking or presenting before asking a question. 

In indirect cultures, ask yourself whether or not the answer you seek has already been given. Remember, an indirect culture is one in which much of the communication goes unspoken, with an expectation for you to read between the lines. 

This is especially true in cultures where (for example) the boss is afforded a lot of respect, or in cultures where direct disagreement is avoided. It is often better to wait until after the meeting or conversation to ask for the clarification or additional information you need. 

This may take some time for direct culture people to understand and apply.

And remember, direct and indirect is relative. Sometimes we are direct communicators and sometimes we are indirect. This changes depending on the cultural context, who we are meeting with, and the circumstances of the meeting. Be prepared to shift your communication style to reach the best outcome for you and others.

Whether you come from a direct communication culture where hesitation is seen as shy or an indirect communication culture that values restraint, mastering the balance is crucial. Finding the right way to speak up in any given context is the first key step toward effective communication.

Learn more about our Direct and Indirect Rules of Communication in Chapter 3. 

Conclusion: Add “Jump In & Tell Me More” to your skill set

The “Jump In & Tell Me More” skill is a powerful tool for building stronger professional relationships and having more insightful conversations. By using the three core techniques – TED prompts, repeating key words, and summarizing – you demonstrate engaged listening and create an environment of mutual understanding.

Actively encouraging others to share more helps you gain a richer perspective on the topics and challenges at hand. Over time, the combination of these techniques fosters trust, rapport and trust between yourself and colleagues or customers.

Ultimately, taking the time to jump start richer conversations through active listening is an investment in your ability to collaborate, empathize and solve problems more effectively with those around you. Make Jump In & Tell Me More a habit, and you’ll find your workplace interactions become more than just exchanging information—they will be shared learning experiences that deepen connections between people and teams.

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