Intense Discussions Benefit from Careful Wording


Although frowns, gestures, and tone make up much of the meaning in intense face-to-face communications, words still matter.  Professor Jim Detert, in his book Choosing Courage, identifies phrases that are more likely to inflame rather calm intense communications.  

Below, I have paired phrases to consider avoiding with other ways of stating similar expressions.

Avoid:  Clearly, you did not read my report on this issue.

Better:  I understand you have a different opinion.  May I summarize the information I used to support my view?

Avoid:  I would never make such a statement.

Better:  That sounds unlike something I might say.  My intention was to . . .

Avoid:  You should be more specific in your status reports.

Better:  I feel more confident in my understanding when your status reports include dates and numbers.

Avoid:  Your continued negligence in responding to customer inquiries really makes me angry.

Better:  I think our mission is better served when customers receive timely responses.

Avoid:  Your interpretation is wrong and in clear violation of our policy.

Better:  My reading leads to a different interpretation, can you fill me in on what you base your view on?

In general, avoid phrases the other party might interpret as attacks and replace them with attempts to better understand.

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