If I say someone will “never” listen to you, you may bristle at that as you recall all the clients who do listen to you. In fact, there may be a thing or two you’d like to set straight with me. One of these is that it’s impossible that clients never listen to you, or you wouldn’t be in business.
What you’re having is a normal reaction to the word “never,” which is what’s known as an absolute word, and it’s a conversation stopper.
If absolute words have crept into your communications with clients, team members or family, you could be making it difficult for others to hear what you’re saying and to build trust in you.
Whenever we use words such as “never” and “always,” it can keep us stuck without the opportunity to grow. For example, if you tell a team member that they’re “always late” or they “never finish their work on time,” it creates a disconnect since the other person may now feel attacked or blamed. You’re not creating conversation, and it moves them into the place of negative self-talk that is hurtful for them. In fact, the other person may potentially act passive-aggressive, lash out or walk away.
Instead of saying, “you’re always late,” what we could do instead is something such as, “The other day you came in after 9:30 a.m., and we have 9:30 a.m. staff meetings. When you do this, I feel frustrated and let down. Can you arrive at work by 9:15 a.m. to make sure you’re on time for the meetings?”
That way, you get the other person to commit. They’re either able to say, “Yes, I can do that” or “No. I can’t do that.” This provides more information for your next conversation.
When you’re conscious about how you’re expressing yourself, it opens you up to more and better conversations.
Cynthia Kane is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor who lives in Washington, D.C., USA. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, and she’s a bestselling author. Learn more about her at cynthiakane.com and by visiting Kane Intentional Communication Institute. You can see more from her in the video “How to feel more confident by ending negative self-talk.”
For more communication skills:
- Read “Communicate powerfully: Stop using weak words”
- Watch “Tips on how to sound persuasive when securing potential clients” [MDRT member exclusive]
- Read “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it” [TOT and COT member exclusive]