Communication Training: Clarify Messages–Danger Phrase that can kill your message–“you said. . . .”

Clarify messages--communication training--power and danger phrases

Sometimes we need to clarify messages before we respond, but using danger phrases such as, “you said,” can sabotage our success.

Keep in mind that human beings think they’re saying something other than what they’re really saying over 50% of the time. Therefore, saying to someone, “You said…” (a HUGE danger phrase) increases that person’s self-talk, increases the odds of confrontation and aggression, and distracts from the ultimate communication goal, which is understanding.  Clarify messages by starting with “I understood” or “I heard” rather than “you said.

Watch how it changes the message and stops the blame game:
“You said that you were going to get it done by the end of the day,” compared with “I understood that it was going to be done by the end of the day.”  When you say “I understood,” you are not “accusing” the person of promising to do something–and then not doing it.  When you say “YOU SAID,” the person on the receiving end is apt to focus on whether or not he/she actually said it, rather than on the fact that it did not get done.  Accusations are never helpful in the resolution of disputes.  On the other hand, understanding IS helpful.

Another example of replacing a danger phrase with a power phrase:

Compare “Let me get this straight…you just said you never told me you’d get it done by the end of the day?” with “Let me clarify what I heard before I respond. You never told me you’d get it done by the end of the day. Is that correct?”  You are seeking clarity, not condemnation.  And clarity will always help with resolution. The moral: It is more important to gain understanding and clarity than to prove that you have a good memory; sometimes you must choose between being right and being effective.


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Dan O’Connor has been leading the communication training industry for more than 20 years. Through his bestselling books, his #1 rated YouTube channel, and his online courses, Dan transforms the global conversation and the lives of countless individuals every day.

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