A friend of mine used to jokingly answer the question “How long have you been married?”
Whenever she was asked this question, she would reply along the lines, “You know, if I’d committed murder, I’d have been out by now…”
All in good fun, until one day, when she said this innocently to a waitress, the waitress returned a few minutes later and said:
“I don’t want to make you feel bad, but I just thought I’d let you know that my sister was killed by her husband fifteen years ago, and he’s just recently been released on parole…”
Sometimes, it’s not our job to make people feel good, as we go about our day-to-day duties.
But it is our duty not to make people feel worse.
And sometimes we can make them feel worse purely by accident.
We can do this often by not considering what we say to people before we say it.
And the easiest way to avoid accidentally making someone feel worse is to say nothing.
But nothing is not an option.
The next best thing to do to avoid accidentally making someone feel worse is to ask some clarifying questions.
Gentle clarifying questions.
Gentle clarifying questions are great things to always use to check the lay of the land before we make an opinionated statement.
It’s always wise, when asked your opinion on something, to find out as much as possible where the asker stands in terms of their own position, if possible, before hanging yourself out to dry, so to speak.
Someone asks you “Have you seen this movie?”
The best way to answer is:
“Yes I saw it last week. Have you seen it?”
If they answer yes, you can ask them what they thought about it.
If they answer no, not yet, you can ask them if they plan to, and ask them why they might be interested in seeing that movie….
Or somebody mentions the weather.
“Hasn’t it been hot lately?”
We answer with “Yes it has. Do you like hot weather?”
This allows us to work out where that person stands before digging ourselves unknowingly into a hole by rushing in with our own opinion firstly.
When they answer with “No I don’t like it hot, I have recently had a melanoma removed”, it’s a lot easier to ask them how that has been for them.
A lot easier than if we had led with:
“Yeah, great beach weather!!”
Do you see the pattern?
Someone says: “I can’t believe its September already.”
The best way to answer is:
“Sounds like you’ve been busy there Mary?”
Mary will then let us know *exactly* why she feels the year has flown for her.
We have avoided second guessing Mary. There may be a very good reason, a very personal reason, why Mary has begun this conversation.
It is our duty, always, to draw out that true reason first and foremost as much as we can before we state our position.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Similarly, a closed mouth gathers no feet.
It’s very difficult to put your foot in your mouth if you’re not the one doing the talking.
And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. We’re trying to avoid offering unasked for opinions ahead of time.
It just makes life so much easier when you go seeking clarification first.
And when you can do this, when you can master the art of gentle clarification, the other person will always feel that by virtue of the fact that you are asking them questions, that you are indeed an interesting person.
By appearing interested…
The best way to appear interesting to someone is to be interested in them.
The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple easy to implement system that I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.
Email me: david@theUPE.com
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