Today you’re going to learn how to communicate without offending someone.
You’re not alone if you think discussions can be a dangerous minefield where you risk unintentionally upsetting someone. This can be especially difficult if you’re giving someone constructive criticism and don’t want your comments to hurt them.
You will upset people if you respect and care about them. If you manage to say the wrong thing, be prepared to take responsibility for your actions and learn from them so you don’t do the same thing again.
How To Communicate Without Offending Someone:
1. Be careful when speaking.
Create a speaking strategy using the THINK acronym before having difficult discussions. The acronym THINK stands for five qualities that should characterize any constructive criticism: truthful, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. It is unlikely that the person you are talking to will be hurt by what you have to say if it meets all five requirements.
For example, you might remark, “Your reports are consistently flawless.” However, they regularly come in late, and this causes other departments to fall behind. What can I do to make sure you deliver them on time? “
You have succeeded if your comments have inspired the other person to take action and take immediate responsibility for the problem. She will not be as likely to feel upset or think you are picking on her unfairly.
2. To reduce defensiveness, use “I-statements.”
Instead of pointing the finger at someone else, focus on your own views. Someone’s defense mechanisms are likely to increase if they think you are holding someone responsible for anything. Either you were the one who said something offensive, or the other person feared it would happen. When you state your point of view, you leave room for the other person’s point of view.
For example, you could say, “I feel pressured and overloaded when you send me your report at the last minute.” This can be contrasted with “You never turn in your work on time.” The second comment is more likely to make the interviewee feel attacked and go on the defensive.
The “I” statement should be followed by a mention of your future goals. For example, you might note: “When you suddenly give me your report, I feel under pressure and overloaded.” Please submit it at least a day in advance so that I have time to incorporate your information into the department’s report. “
3. Intersperse constructive criticism with compliments.
By encouraging the other person, you can motivate them to take action. When you praise someone for a job well done, it inspires her to go above and beyond to address any problems you may have. You leave her with the impression that she can improve her performance.
For example, you might remark, “I was quite pleased with the way you handled this difficult customer.” I would prefer that you let the manager deal with such problems in the future. I want you to focus on merchandise because you are excellent at it.
4. Make a request for a change instead of pointing out the mistake.
This method teaches the person what to do next. Often, it is not necessary to point out what someone did wrong. The important thing is to make sure he or she doesn’t repeat the mistake, and this can often be accomplished without scolding for something he or she did wrong.
For example, you might ask someone to clean up the table in the social room in the future after they have finished eating. Instead of stating, “You need to stop leaving a mess in the social room after lunch,” this wording defines it as a request.
5. Focus on actions instead of character traits.
By giving the person specific, actionable criticism, you give them the opportunity to make a change. Don’t make fun of their personality or character; give the person something they can work on. Blaming personality traits is a convenient escape that will not help the situation but only harm the victim.
You can say, “In the future, I’d rather you check in with every member of your team first thing in the morning.” to an employee who doesn’t get along with other team members. This will be received much more favorably than if you remark, “You are not a team player.”
6. Emphasize behaviors rather than appearances.
It’s impolite to compliment someone for something they have no control over. Instead of focusing on the physical traits people were born with, consider the actions and decisions they make. Admiring someone for their physical traits can be quite disrespectful.
For example, if you like a certain barista at your favorite coffee shop, you might praise his coffee brewing technique rather than his appearance, such as his eyes or hair.
You can still express your preference for any physical feature! Simply focus your praise on an action the recipient has taken that highlights the desired trait. For example, you might remark, “That shirt you’re wearing really emphasizes the color of your eyes,” as opposed to stating that someone has attractive eyes (which they were born with and can’t change).
7. Honor the uniqueness of each person.
Even words you don’t find offensive can hurt other people. Most of the time, when you talk to someone, you have no idea what experiences and traumas that person has endured. Accept that someone was offended by something you said; don’t belittle them or bring up the issue.
Think about how you would not want to hurt anyone (1). You never know when you might inadvertently touch someone who is scarred by various negative events. When this happens, admit that you were unaware of their vulnerability, express your regret, and then move on. Don’t think too much about it or demand that they explain their emotions.
For example, if you are a white person who is used to calling people of other races “minorities,” You may come across someone who says the word “minority” is offensive, because in fact, people of color make up the majority of the world’s population. You should apologize and then ask what phrase you should use in its place.
8. Directly ask for someone’s definition.
Instead of making assumptions, find out what terminology each person uses. Think about how a person would describe themselves, and then consistently refer to them using those words. This method recognizes that each person is free to define themselves.
For example, how would you define your ethnicity when you are introducing a speaker who will be discussing race relations in the workplace? Then use their answer in your introduction.
Limit the facts you ask about to those that are key and relevant to the circumstances. If the questions are light and you are in a social atmosphere, you can usually get away with it. I’m just interested. For example, how would you define your race?
Simply ask, “What are your pronouns?” when it comes to gender. Avoid using the term “preferred pronouns,” which suggests a decision or choice.
9. Keep compliments in line with the deed.
If you lavishly praise someone for a small achievement, they will feel ridiculed. Such extravagant praise often implies that the achievement is significant to the recipient because of his ethnicity, gender, or disability. Consider whether you would be equally flattered if the other person were an identical copy of you.
For example, a person with a disability might be upset if you praised him or her for a routine activity, such as going to the store or the post office. You wouldn’t congratulate someone in good health for running their errands! Save your applause for accomplishments that deserve it.
Similarly, someone who simply goes about their daily business and performs very routine tasks doesn’t need praise or to be referred to as an “inspiration” just because they have a disability.
10. Refrain from forcing your emotions on others.
Use language without emotional overtones or unfavorable meanings. In most cases, it is better to indicate that someone “has” a disease or condition than that they “suffer” from it. People are sometimes just trying to live their lives and may not feel that they are suffering on a daily basis, especially if they have a chronic ailment.
In a similar way, calling people with disabilities “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair” can be offensive. Helping a disabled person get around is empowering because it gives them the independence to perform tasks without assistance.
11. Have an open mind when accepting others’
Show your openness to listening to different opinions and ideas (2). There is nothing wrong with the fact that not everyone will agree with you. You can learn something about yourself and other people by listening and trying to understand why others believe as they do.
When you base someone’s value on what their position on an issue is, you risk offending them. However, because everyone is multidimensional, everyone has different reasons for their beliefs.
This does not obligate you to agree with them, or even to act as though you agree. You can, however, show respect by giving them attention and letting them defend their position.
12. Avoid making fun of someone’s identity or situation.
Some slang expressions negatively portray a certain identity or condition. People who identify themselves in this way or have this condition are marginalized and alienated when terminology related to their identity or condition is used as a slur or disparaging comment. A health problem is often reduced to its worst symptoms when it is used as slang in this way.
Suggesting that the weather is unpredictable, for example, is better than saying it is “schizophrenic.”
In the same way, avoid equating diagnosed medical problems with common personality traits. Such wording denigrates the disease and can upset those who have it. Don’t use phrases such as “I have such OCD about this” when discussing how picky you are about organization, for example.
13. Express regret when you are criticized or scolded.
If you manage to offend someone, point out your mistake. It takes courage to speak up for yourself when someone is upset about something someone else said. Express your regret, assure them that you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and promise never to do it again.
Never blame the other person for your apology; always take responsibility for it.
Never demand more information from them or pressure them to defend or justify their feelings. All you need to know is that they were hurt by your comments. Thank them if they make an effort to explain what you stated incorrectly.
For example, say something like: “Thanks for teaching me.” Alternatively, you can say, “Thank you for making me a better person.”
Another way to put it is, “Your opinion is valuable to me.” I appreciate your feedback, so please continue to share this type of information with me.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to communicate without offending someone. I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.