There are countless ways to discount people unwittingly as we interact with them. Our intent may be positive, but these phrases, common as they are, can come across with negative impact. Here are four examples that you’ve probably heard/said/received in the past week:
This translates to, “You’re wrong, and I will now point out your flaws for all to hear.”
Which is heard as: “You dummy; I’m going to point out each stupid aspect.” And to hear this says you are inferior.
Use this instead: “My thinking takes a different line. When I think about this, I think …”
This translates to, “John is not articulate enough to be understood. I, of course, need to help him here.”
John hears, “You obviously don’t know how to communicate. I will help you.” Once again, John is painted as inferior and the ‘translator’ feels s/he’s painted as the superior helper.
Use this instead: “John, can you tell us more about how you are thinking?”
This translates to, “You are so wrong that it barely justifies explanation. Flat out wrong.” The speaker usually goes on to say what’s “right”
Which is heard as, “Wow, what a loser that you don’t see the obvious.” This is very discounting.
Use this instead: “I think about it differently, so I’d like to learn more about your thinking on this.”
This translates to, “How did you ever come up with that off-the-wall/stupid idea?”
Which is heard as, “Do you even have a brain? Do you even know what’s going on here?”
Once again, John is dashed onto the rocks. A more appropriate response might be, “John, tell me/us more about how you’re thinking on this.”
So as you can see, you’re usually on solid ground when you simply ask someone to tell you more about how they’re thinking.
Most important point to always keep in mind:
Being right is not the same as being certain. When we feel absolutely certain, we usually believe that we are right. This may or may not be true. Just because we feel certain about something does not mean we are right. It’s easy for us to confuse certainty with correctness. We need to pay attention.