By: Karen E. Purves
An old adage says, “People can forget what you say or do, but they don’t often forget how you make them feel,” and this still remains true. Subtle differences in your conversational techniques can help others feel more positive and more willing to cooperate with you. Whether you’re talking to staff or motorcoach clients, the following practical, real-world tactics will help you become a more effective communicator.
1. Transform “Thank you” into “Thank you for ...” In some situations, “thank you” is better than not showing any appreciation at all, but most people won’t remember your thankfulness if you just say, “Thank you.” Instead, include the keyword “for” and be specific about what this person has done for you. For example, “Thank you for taking over for me at the meeting,” or “Thank you for doing that extra research.” If you change “Thank you” to “Thank you for …” people tend to actually remember that you thanked them and, if asked, rate you as having higher credibility.
2. Instead of “If,” say “When.” Saying, “If you do [this] …” or “If you don’t respond …” assumes the person won’t follow through on something. However, saying, “When you do [this] …” or “When you respond …” you are assuming they will follow through, which induces a small amount of guilt and increases the likelihood that the person will complete the task.
3. Disagree with someone? Ask a question instead of arguing. When people disagree, the natural temptation is to convince the other person that he or she is wrong and the many reasons you are right. Instead of trying to prove your point, ask, “What are your reasons for that?” This tactic can increase your understanding of the other person’s view as well as identify some possible creative solutions.
4. Instead of “Do you have any questions?” ask “What questions do you have?” If you phrase your question as “Do you …?,” people could be more inclined to say, “No,” even if they’re thinking, “Yes,” in order to appear more decisive. Instead, ask, “What questions do you have?” Similarly, “Can I ask you a question?” makes you sound unconfident. “I have a question for you” is a much more confident way to say the same thing. Changing passive language to active language allows the other person to feel you are speaking with more confidence, and this in turn increases the likelihood that they will cooperate.
5. Instead of saying, “I know,” try saying, “You’re right.” “You’re right” is an instant compliment that can cause the person to whom you’re speaking to feel correct. Instead of saying, “I know [that already],” say “You’re right [about that idea].” You will leave people with the feeling that you’re a secure person who isn’t interested in always proving how knowledgeable you are. Instead, the other person can see you as someone who is concerned with acknowledging others’ intelligence and respecting their contributions.
Karen E. Purves, M.A., is an award-winning international speaker and communications expert. She will be speaking at the 2019 ABA Marketplace about reducing negativity in the workplace. To learn more about Purves, visit www.innovativeimpact.com.