Words are so powerful. There are many phrases that are well-intended yet often do more harm than good. Below are a few rules of thumb for communicating more empathically, especially in emotionally charged moments:
Firstly, consider disproportionately praising compared to criticism. Compliment at least 3-4 times more than you may correct. Also, focus on connection before connection. Consider this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Show that you care by investing in them as people and showing compassion and care for their strengths and gifts.
No one wants to feel like they’re walking on eggshells and have to think about every word/statement they express. However, what if a bit more thoughtfulness about word choice could mean the difference between connection versus disconnection with others? Below are just a few examples of phrases that can be damaging, and in the photo below you’ll find a few alternatives to common phrases that are far more connecting and likely to lead with love…
- “Like I said” – This phrase is usually meant to highlight what someone wants to be sure you understand. It’s often innocently intended, however, to the person on the receiving end, it can feel infantilizing and demeaning, like you’re insinuating that they weren’t listening or don’t understand. Even if this were true, this is not an effective way to mention it.
- “Again…” – Same issue as above. Commo filler-word to highlight key points but often distancing instead of connecting.
- “We need to talk…” – Even if you want to discuss something wonderful, starting a dialogue or requesting dialogue with these words can activate worry in the other person. Remember that it is not unusual for people to consider the worst “what if” statements rather than the best, so instead consider something more connecting that frames positive intention: “I thought of something that we might enjoy together…” is far more connecting and likely to evoke a positive (and sooner) response.
- “But” – As discussed in my book, Don’t Be A Stranger, including “but,” “however,” “although,” or other alternative in a statement (even if said statement has praise in it) tends to evoke defensiveness in the listener who typicaly only anticipates/hears the negative (even if there is no negative). In stead consider “and” or simply starting a new sentence without a transitional word.
To learn more on what else you can see in stead of these potential faux pas, join me for a live or virtual event! The next one’s July 11, 2020 (www.dontbeastranger.eventbrite.com).