In workshops and coaching conversations, I receive many questions about the right way to communicate an idea. Sadly, I cannot define the absolutely, most correct, “right” way to communicate an idea – particularly if the idea is communicated during a conflict conversation. I can, however, identify several definitively wrong ways to do it. In today’s post, I’m going to share three communication strategies that are virtually guaranteed to irritate other people, and I’ll tell you what to do instead.
If you really want to irritate another person, use these three “I” communication strategies*…
Insinuation – to say (something, especially something bad or insulting) in an indirect way
Innuendo – a statement which indirectly suggests that someone has done something immoral, improper, etc.
Implication – something that is suggested without being said directly
When you look closely at each of the definitions, you’ll note that the word “indirect” appears in each of them, and, from an emotional perspective, that is the problem with each of these communication techniques.
Most people resort to one or more of these strategies in conflict situations because they feel a need to have their point heard, and they want to avoid upsetting the other person. As a result, they use an indirect approach in an effort to strike the balance between making their point and avoiding the pain of offending the other person.
And, it doesn’t work that way.
Indirect communication approaches leave a gap between the words used and the real message. The danger lies in the fact that the gap will be filled by the person hearing the message. In most cases, it will be filled with their assumptions about the real message, and their assumptions will generally be more negative than the intended message. A message intended to convey mild irritation sounds – to the person hearing the message – like a strong personal attack.
A better, and a slightly counterintuitive, approach is to speak directly with people. It is more powerful, more persuasive, and less irritating to say exactly what you mean than it is to insinuate, infer, or imply.
As with any technique or tactic for working with people, this one can be taken to a ridiculous extreme. Yes, I am advocating direct, honest communication as a way to reduce and resolve conflicts. I do not advocate taking the approach to the extreme of rude and aggressive communication.
To minimize misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication, learn to use assertive and direct communication approaches that make your point clearly, concisely, and confidently.
Here's a related podcast episode…