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7 Trigger Phrases You Should Never Say to Anyone and Why

7 Trigger Phrases You Should Never Say to Anyone and Why

Less confrontation, more communication

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There are many dysfunctional approaches to dealing with difficult people and coworkers that will not result in desired and positive outcomes. To achieve the results you desire from a confrontation or an investigation interview, you must learn how to handle it in a positive and assertive manner.

If you can help someone save face, you create a situation where you almost never have to fight them and it usually results in a positive outcome. The successful communicator anticipates trouble and moves to prevent it, rather than expecting or provoking it.

Communication skills are critical for managers, investigators and others. Learn more tricks for getting people to talk to you by downloading the free Building Rapport cheat sheet.

To achieve a peaceful and positive outcome, there are trigger words and phrases that should always be avoided. And never joke or laugh in an angry person’s presence or show signs of being impatient. Practicing Peace Language is the professional way to deal with conflict because it enhances opportunities for achieving voluntary compliance which is always the most desirable way.

Learn how to detect deception in investigation interviews and in conversation. Download the free cheat sheet on Detecting Deception.

What Not to Say

Learning these seven things you should never say to anyone will give you the tools you need to handle those difficult confrontations:

  1. “Hey you! Come here!” To you “come here” means “come over here. You are under my authority.” To the person you are saying it to, it means: “Go away quickly.” That approach will never resolve any issue because it automatically puts them on the defensive.
  2. “Calm down! You need to sit down, calm down, and stop yelling.” This fuels the fire. They see it as a criticism of their behavior and it suggests they have no legitimate right to be upset. Not only is there the original problem they were upset about—now they need to defend their reaction to you. Never argue, criticize or be judgmental of their situation. Always remain calm. You are the one who can diffuse the potentially dangerous situation. Instead say things like “It’s going to be all right. Talk to me. What’s the matter?” These types of statements soften up the person’s resolve and invite them to talk.
  3. “I’m not going to tell you again” Repetition implies weakness and it places you in a position where you must act. Instead say something like “Is there anything I could say that would get you to do A, B, and C? I’d like to think so.”
  4. “Be more reasonable” This only invites further conflict. Everyone believes they are already being reasonable. Instead say something like: "Let me see if I understand your position.” If you paraphrase their response, it will help to calm them down because they believe you understand their issue and your words are professional and less emotional.
  5. “Because those are the rules!” or “Because that’s the law!” These phrases irritate people and put you in a position of weakness. Instead explain why they can’t do something. At least 70 per cent of resistant or difficult people will do what you ask if you tell them why. This also establishes your standing and gives the other person justification for complying. They don’t have to comply because you said so, but because of the explanation of “why” that you just gave them.
  6. “What’s your problem?” This useless phrase puts the problem back on the person needing assistance. Nobody likes to admit he or she has a problem, so instead substitute tactical phrases designed to soften and open them up, such as “What’s the matter?”, “How can I help?” or “I see you’re upset. Let me suggest…”
  7. “What do you want me to do about it?” This is a sarcastic response and an evasion of your responsibility as a manager. It also creates a new problem. You still have the original problem and now you also have the one you just created by appearing to duck responsibility. Instead, offer to help sort out the problem and work out a solution.

Remember insults strengthen resistance and shut the eyes, but civility weakens resistance and opens the eyes. Never make promises you cannot keep and always be up front with information. This helps the person see that you understand his/her problem and want to help. And never take their anger personally. If you follow these simple tips, you may find your confrontations happening less often and being more easily resolved.