In my first post in this series, I told the story of how a one-word change in a slogan turned listeners reactions around 180 degrees. This means you have many opportunities and options for “clicking” with someone.
When I changed “want” to “need,” responses changed from “Eeew” to “Wow! That’s just what I want.” If Eeyore, the morose donkey from Winnie the Poo could read this post, he might say, “Oh, dear. If one word can make all the difference, I can never speak a sentence without getting at least one word wrong. I’m bound to offend or confuse someone. Better to keep my mouth shut and not even try.”
Tigger, the perennially peppy tiger, however, would say, “Oh, boy! When someone disagrees with me, it doesn’t mean they reject my idea. It might mean I just didn’t use the words that resonate with them. I can try again.” Tigger’s got this one right. It pays to paraphrase and try again. (See Bridges to Consensus, Chapter 11.)
When my friend Jack said “Eeew” to one version of the slogan, that gave me a hint to look for something offensive or distasteful about my words. But if you don’t have a clue, you can say, “You seem offended [or puzzled, or angry, or whatever].” Then ask the other person a question, such as, “What was it about my statement that made you feel this way?” or “What’s bothering you about this?”
And if, like me, you sometimes don’t figure it out till the next day, you can return to the other person and paraphrase in a fresh conversation. I went back to Jack with my revised slogan after a whole week, and the one-word difference landed us smack on the same page.