Once I attended a business meeting, where one of the speakers suggested a new approach to work on a project and volunteered to be responsible for it. A colleague opposed and began to persuade the group to leave everything as it is.
When it became clear that the majority was not on her side, already at the door she said to someone: “This … offers a completely idiotic solution.” Others heard her comment. As a result, the woman demonstrated only her own powerlessness and the ability to easily become personal in a stressful situation – clearly not the kind of professional qualities that one can be proud of.
Usually, before we say something, we think over our words in our head. Then, starting to speak, we edit ourselves on the go, add new phrases or change intonation depending on the reaction of the interlocutor.
And while speech planning is part of the natural process of communication, awkward phrases still fly off the tongue.
How to avoid this?
1. Change your attitude towards disputes
Conflicts often provoke us to language bloopers – after all, in such situations it is difficult for us to restrain our emotions. Those with whom these breakdowns often occur refer to disputes as fighting without rules.
Respect for the interlocutor, the desire to listen to and understand him is often not included in our plans. Not only do we not realize that we might be wrong, but we are sure that we must come out the winner, because the truth is on our side.
Winning a dispute can only be a momentary victory. Consider if it matters in the long run
If we stop asserting ourselves in an argument, we will have more opportunities to show attention to the interlocutor. This will ease your overall emotional stress.
By moving from a confrontational to a cooperative position, we can better control our feelings and, as a result, spontaneous speech.
2. Be mindful of your long-term interests
Winning a dispute can only be a momentary victory. Under the influence of emotions, we strive to prove our innocence at all costs – this becomes the main goal. Consider whether this is so important in the long run. Wouldn’t it be wiser to try to find a compromise, to let the interlocutor feel that, even if you share a different point of view, you hear and understand him. This will help maintain good relations and the possibility of further cooperation.
As soon as our tasks change – from attack to interaction – speech will also change. It will reflect a new inner attitude. In this state, we are less likely to indulge in venomous comments that we regret.
3. You don’t really think so
When we throw hurting words in our hearts, it seems to us that at this moment we are sincere. And if we ourselves find ourselves a victim of offensive comments, then we believe that it is they that reflect the attitude of the interlocutor towards us.
However, everything is exactly the opposite – spontaneous, emotional attacks rarely reflect a genuine attitude. This is just a superficial reaction related to a specific situation.
If the child yells to his mother, “I hate you,” this does not demonstrate genuine feelings for her, but it does indicate that he was extremely upset by her decision not to buy sweets.
It is important to remember that spontaneous remarks cannot be the criterion of truth. This will help you avoid squabbling and think more rationally.
About the author: Heidi Reeder is a psychologist and professor at the Department of Communication at Boise University, Idaho.