Last week, I gave you a list of 10 statements to start removing from your repertoire. Here are some ideas about what to say if you’re on the receiving end of one or more of those statements:
1. You never . . . or you always . . . Try to see it from the other person’s perspective and show some understanding. Respond by saying, “I know it seems like I never return your calls. I’ll try to be better at that. What did you want to talk about?”
2. Calm down. If someone is telling you to calm down, I suggest that you take a deep breath first, and then respond by saying “It’s obvious that I’m upset. Let’s talk about why.” But if you cannot calm down enough to talk about your reasons, you might opt to simply walk away and revisit the conversation at a later time.
3. Come here. This one’s easy. If someone tells you to “come here,” try this one word response: “Why?” If the answer seems reasonable, then problem solved. If not, you already know what to do next!
4. I’m not going to say this again. Another simple response on your part. “Okay.” Or, “I understand.” Or, “Gotcha.” You choose. Any response along these lines will effectively end the conversation.
5. What’s your problem? This statement requires a calm, measured response. Simply denying that it’s a problem won’t work. Instead, state that it’s something you’d like to talk about. This is a more reasonable answer to a question that could otherwise put you on the defensive.
6. It’s the rule. When someone gives you that blanket statement, it’s your absolute obligation to ask why. It will sound better if you ask for an explanation so that you can better understand it, because if it made sense to you, it might be easier for you to follow.
7. What do you want ME to do about it? This one takes zero practice on your part. If you’re asked that question, your response should be to ask that person to listen to you so that he/she can help you out. Then it’s on you to explain nicely.
8. This is for your own good. It might be appropriate for you to remind your brother-in-law that YOU are in the best position to determine that. If the relationship needs nurturing, you might add that you appreciate his concern. (If you opt for the appreciation part, try not to sound condescending.)
9. It’s none of your business. The last time someone said that to me, he was correct! But if it really is your business, take a moment to explain why.
10. You wouldn’t understand. Even if you’re feeling dismissed by this statement, I’d suggest that you firmly insist that you actually would understand if the person gave you a few more details. And make sure she knows your objective is to help.
Bottom line, even if you cannot memorize my suggested responses, you certainly can teach yourself to ask questions with the singular goal of reaching an understanding. Agree?