When you feel that you have been verbally attacked, it is incredibly difficult to think of the right words to calm the situation and disarm a verbal aggressor. Developing power phrases for use in various situations can help you get past this mental roadblock so that you can respond calmly and quickly in a wide range of situations.
In working with workshop participants and coaching clients to find good ways to address specific, emotionally charged situations, I have learned three power phrases you can use in a wide range of situations to disarm a verbal aggressor and turn the direction of an escalating conversation.
Here they are…
If I were you, I would feel exactly the same way.
Let's say someone expresses a strong emotion and it looks like that emotion could be a barrier to effectively communicating with them. Acknowledging their emotion is a powerful tool to show that you understand their perspective even if you do not necessarily agree with it.
Part of the power in this statement is that it is absolutely true in all cases. If you were the other person, you would feel exactly like they feel because you would have their life experience, education, culture, gender, etc.
You may be right.
When someone comes at you with strong words of criticism or condemnation, you can often disarm the attack by acknowledging that they may be correct in their judgement. You do not necessarily have to agree with their assessment to say that they may be right.
If necessary, you can add to this statement to also offer your counter perspective by bridging from your acknowledgement of their position to your position with the word and. It would look like this: “You may be right, and…” (Important note: beware of the tendency to use but in place of and in your statement.)
Of course I am.
This statement is a new addition to my verbal toolkit by way of my colleague John Little. In a recent Ultimate Communicator workshop, we were discussing how to respond to strong personal attacks. For example when someone says: you're an idiot, you're totally wrong, etc. In our discussion, John suggested the phrase: “Of course I am.”
I love it! This approach totally removes the push back you offer the other person when they verbally attack you, and it gives you room to turn the tide of the aggressive conversation.
As is true with most communication techniques, the specific words you use will depend a great deal on several factors. For example, some of the considerations are:
- The relationship between the two parties
- The political or social environment surrounding the communication, and
- The physical setting of the parties during the communication.
So, while I do not believe that these phrases are completely universal, they can be great additions to your communication repertoire that help you better respond to verbal aggression in a positive way that leads to resolution rather than escalation.
Do you have some phrases that help to turn a heated conversation in a positive direction? If you do, please share them in the comments section below.