“Just do whatever you want to do / think whatever you want to think – I am out of here.” These were my hurtful words to someone after a long, heated argument and I stopped listening to the complete story. This left us both drained, frustrated and lost for words to repair the damage we had done to each other’s feelings.
The conversation was something like this:
Him: “I think we should use a device to make our presentation more visible to the head table. Maybe if we tried xxxx it would work.”
Me: “NO – that is not going to work. One device would not be sufficient. We do not have the time or resources to do this now.” (My response did not leave any space for a conversation – the word “NO” was definitive and stern.)
Him: “I have thought about this for a long time. I think if I tried it, it would work.” He was still trying to get me on his side. He continued sharing his ideas but I stopped listening, because in my mind, I was clear that whatever this idea was, was not going to work.
Me: “Just do whatever you want to do / think whatever you want to think – I am out of here.”
This last statement rocked the boat completely. As I read through this conversation, I am speechless with my tone of voice and behavior. The conversation was happening within a pressured environment with very little time to implement new changes to a planned event. Generally, I consider myself to be a good communicator, but under pressure, I can be quite flippant. So I did a bit of research on communication techniques and discovered a simple concept called “softeners” which I could have used to communicate my point more effectively and less hurtful.
“Softeners” means a specific language that softens a discussion and has been identified as a skill worth learning by new Canadians since most Canadians use softeners in their communication with others. Softeners ensure that the process of talking about something does not start with a strong categorical, definitive, unqualified position, even when speaker have strong feelings or strong opinions or feelings about an issue. They use softeners to send less confrontational and dogmatic messages.
Some examples of words and phrases you can use to soften a conversation are:
“Often” “Could” “Perhaps” “Probably” “Maybe”
“From my experience”; “I observed”; “Can we look at another option?”
“I hear that you are saying….”
“I am just wondering…”
“What do you think about?”
“Can you elaborate more on your idea?”
“Did you change your mind about your previous decision?”
Instead of saying: “NO – that is not going to work. One device would not be sufficient. We do not have the time or resources to do this now.”
I could have said: “Tell me more about what you have in mind. Do you think we have enough time to implement your idea? How do you think it will affect the timing for the event? What additional resources do you think we need? Or can you please elaborate on your idea?”
Good communication is an art and requires tact and discipline. Several research sources have proven that companies lose millions of dollars each year due to communication problems. It takes a considerable amount of knowledge and practice to get our messages across clearly, concisely, coherently and within the right context! In addition to the message we must also pay attention to timing as well as the other person’s mind frame and their space during a conversation.
TuneIn to why you may react negatively to how a person speaks to you. Does it sound too harsh? Maybe they are not aware of softeners. Let us StepUp and use softeners in our daily communication. It could save your job, your relationships and even promote you to positions which require good tact and communication.
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