Effective communication skills are essential, especially in today’s hyper tense, reactive world. All too often people simply speak their minds, minus common filters of thought and kindness in an attempt to share their voice. They don’t THINK!
This is Part II of T-H-I-N-K Before You Speak: A Formula for Better Conflict Resolution to suggest formula queues to help guide your actions and replies when you hear something that offends you.
I – INSPIRE
First consider that just by taking time to contemplate truth, or help, you may have INSPIRED an offensive or offended person.
But how else can the act of INSPIRING or BEING INSPIRED help you in a negative circumstance?
- Use the same language – either in the moment, or, at a later time when you can respond more clearly using a powerful, yet non-confrontational way to tell someone their behavior was unacceptable.
‘Earlier today, during our meeting, you made a comment that made me feel uncomfortable. But I want to thank you for this. Why? Because your comment inspired me to learn more about something I currently know little about. This way, I will know more and be able to reply intelligently when I hear someone speak about it.’
In reality, inspiring someone doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Sometimes, it strikes when we learn from their offensive actions and communicate as such.
- Inspire others and lead by example, OR, demonstrate a positive approach. Your actions are a benchmark to handle challenging times, and encourage others to do the same.
N – NECESSARY, possibly my favorite one
In previous posts and speaking engagements I have used a funny little phrase, ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’
When we are in the presence of offensive-ness (is that even a word?), we may want to react. We want to say something. We want to do something.
But I ask you this…IS THE JUICE WORTH THE SQUEEZE?
The only person who can answer that question is you. You, as the offended party, are in the power position. The offender is just being themselves, making off color jokes or being ridiculous.
You, on the other hand, have a choice in whether to, or how to, act or react. Take a second before choosing your action. Ask yourself whether the juice is worth the squeeze.
Consider if this is a person that you’ll never see again, see very rarely, or must work with every day. This will influence you. A complete stranger saying something stupid is very different than your colleague saying the same thing.
But, what happens if you witness an event and know someone is about to react…possibly to their detriment?
You may be able to answer these questions or ask the offended, ‘Before you react to this idiot, let me ask you: IS THE JUICE WORTH THE SQUEEZE here?’
You can also leverage the word NECESSARY in an offensive moment. Ask the offensive person a powerful question. If you’ve given it a few seconds of thought, think it will help someone, and feel it will inspire them to reconsider…ask them, ‘Tell me, why do you feel it was necessary to say this?’
You have likely noticed that kindness has been the theme in this post. There is never enough kindness – especially in a moment of offensive behavior.
Considering that kindness is typically not the first thing that comes to mind when caught up in an offensive moment, I challenge you to:
- consider the power that being kind has.
- be kind because we do not truly know why a person believes what they believe.
It can be pure, unadulterated, ignorance and irrational hate. BUT, it can also be the result of being raised in a household with values different from yours. Appreciating that values and experiences differ, and making attempts to understand how, IS kind.
When we do not take time to understand the origins of someone’s perspectives, we:
- run the risk of being the offensive person
- walk through life expecting people to agree with our definitions of correct
Kindness opens the door for understanding, learning, and growing. Reactive behavior does not.
When we are on the receiving end of offensive behavior, we must keep in mind that what we find offensive may not be offensive to someone else.
By being kind, patient, and curious, we can effectively walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and either learn – and therefore be less quick to become offended. Or, we can educate – and challenge someone to reconsider their perspective.
Being Kind in an offensive situation is:
- Not reacting with negative emotion.
- Not raising your voice, using foul language, or pointing a finger.
- Not name calling or immediately screaming that you disagree.
- Not returning in kind, to make a point.
Kindness is silence, contemplation, or a statement:
- ‘I need some time to think about what you have just said…’
- ‘What you just said was hard for me to hear, but I’d like to wait to respond to you about it…’
- ‘You have just commented on someone/something that is very personal to me. Perhaps you will be open to letting me tell you a story about it.’
Kindness is also:
- not wanting to bring immediate harm or negative attention on the offending party.
- not talking about people behind their back, turning others against them, or, passive-aggressively humiliating them or embarrassing them at a later time.
- seeing value in trying to educate or privately resolve an issue before involving supervisors or HR…so people have an opportunity to apologize and make things right.
Now, let me be clear on something: if you are a victim of workplace or domestic hostility, harassment, violence, bullying, etc. NONE OF THE ABOVE applies.
For some offenses, the first time should be the last time.
What I am referring to here are the everyday offences that happen to average people. The off-color jokes, the ignorant statements, the heat-of-the-moment insults, and the insensitive barbs.
Being human means being offended. It cannot be avoided, and in many ways, the events add color and spice to life. How we react and manage those situations, however, is how we introduce opportunities to grow as communicators.