Keeping Negativity Out of Conversations

“What I heard you say was…”

I have been doing a lot of inward searching lately and I have decided that I no longer want to hear nor be a part of a negative conversation. When people say things to you that are not necessarily friendly, we tend to go inward and wish they said something else. No one likes confrontation but I think there is something magical about what I want you to try.

Example: You are working from home and your kids are home from school. Your spouse/partner is supposed to be watching them and you have an important call coming up. You hear a loud bang. Your call is in minutes. You rush out to see what happened. The kids tell you that they were just making a large banging noise so you tell them they don’t need to be so loud and you ask them if they are all right. All of a sudden your spouse shows up in the room and says, “They’re fine.”

Well, now I am really irritated because my spouse is supposed to be watching them and there is no reason they can’t play a little more quietly. I want to scream. Instead, I stop and think because I have a call in mere minutes and I don’t want my emotions to get the best of me. So what I say is, “What I heard you say was, thank you for coming out of your office to see if the kids were not hurt. We’ll try to keep it down for you.”

I am not yelling, yet I have conveyed my feelings and shown my children the alternatives to arguing with my spouse in front of them. I have also shown my spouse/partner how I feel about what is going on in the house while I am trying to work. Yes, kids are noisy however, they can be taught to be respectful and given alternative activities during the day.

So, how do we translate this to business?

There are times when conversations get heated and it is important for us to keep our cool and maintain our emotions. If your boss is upset with you for something you didn’t do, or if a co-worker says something snarky to you for no reason. You can try this statement and paraphrase their thoughts into something positive, or let them know what is actually going on.

Example: I was told about a team lead that had just finished an extremely hard customer service call in a fast-paced environment. Normally these calls are about 10 minutes maximum, but this one lasted around 30 minutes. The team lead followed all the protocols but the customer started swearing at them and the rule was that they were allowed to ask them to stop or they will end the call. Of course in this instance, the customer kept going and the team lead ended the call.

The customer left a bad review and the team lead’s manager came over to speak with them. Needless to say, the manager did not take the time to find out what really happened and blasted the team lead for being too long on the phone and hanging up on the client.

The team lead was visibly upset but as a trained customer service representative, had the tools to respond to the manager and say;

“What I heard you say was that this must have been a difficult call for you. You were on the phone for a long time trying to diffuse the situation but since the client was unwilling to listen, you ultimately had to end the call. You followed all of our protocols. Let’s discuss what was said on the call and see how we could have handled things differently, if possible.”

You haven’t been disrespectful to your manager, but you have set some boundaries about how you will be spoken to. When this type of linguistics is used more frequently, patterns will change over time. It is a very powerful tool.

Most of us go home and stew about what was said to us and we try to come up with a snappy come-back. Or we just start to resent our boss and end up quitting to get away from them.

If you feel this is too harsh of a way to respond, then I challenge you to really listen to your inner voice the next time someone says something that is upsetting for no reason because, “What I heard you say is this might be difficult for me to try at first, but I am willing to give it a shot because I am worthy of being spoken to in a professional manner.”