Over the years of working with a multitude of clients, especially divorce clients, who wanted to minimize the risk of verbal violence during a settlement conference, while not being meek or submissive, we established a set of negotiation guidelines. We suggest to our clients:
-Tell the truth;
-Do not be afraid;
-State your position completely, clearly and forthrightly;
-DO NOT USE THE WORD, “YOU.”
You would be amazed how difficult it is to sound antagonistic to another person if you do not use the word, “You.” Try it. This tip does two things. It forces the speaker to mentally analyze each sentence to see if it contains the “Y” word – thus putting a filter between brain and mouth. Second, if the thought contains “You”, it requires mental editing. The new thought then becomes a statement usually beginning with, “I think…..” or “I observe…..” or “I want….” or “I feel…” or “I heard…..” While not ending conflict, it reduces the aggression and gives the speaker the satisfaction of not initiating it, which might be useful later. Best of all, it forces the speaker to express their own perceptions and not enter into that dangerous game of “you said” or “you did”. In the vast majority of cases the human response to having a finger pointed at them or being told what they did or said is to deny it. Making headway in a conversation after that becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Gratuitous insults, whether intended or not, are a waste. If you actively wish to confront an individual, then do so with a plan of what is to be attained. But if you want to avoid an unintended confrontation and actually get a resolution to a negotiation or disagreement, stick to speaking for yourself and let them speak for themselves. It’s amazing what barriers can be broken down when the parties are not on the defensive.