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Words to turn a conversation around (and those to avoid)

What to say

Deploy it when you’ve already been met with some resistance: “I know it’s not your first choice, but would you be willing to meet on Friday?”

If you really want someone to engage with you, use, “Can I speak to you about this?”, rather than “Can we talk?”

Do use, It seems like you’re feeling frustrated with this situation – is that right?” Always give the other person the opportunity to comment on or correct your assessment.

Use “hello” when you want to resist getting into a confrontation. “You have to be careful not to sound too passive-aggressive,” Stokoe says, “but just one friendly word in a bright tone can delete the challenge of the conversation.”

What not to say

No “just” Try your own experiment over the next week. Read your emails back before you send them and count the number of times that “I just wanted to” or “Could I just” appear. Edit them out and see the difference in tone.

No “How are you” with someone you dont know or care about. The next time you have to speak to someone you don’t know, don’t be overly friendly. Stick to being polite.

No “any” Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk. Or “Can I get you something else?

No “Yes, but…” Try shifting the conversation by asking the other person “What’s needed here?” or, even better, “What do you need?” “It takes you from what I call ‘blamestorming’ to a solution-focused outcome.”

Based on this.

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