Stop saying “But you said”

What one person says is often not what another person hears. Why is that? It’s because communication is challenging, and the communication from one person’s lips to somebody else’s brain rarely stays intact. One person can say one thing, and the other person listening can genuinely hear something else.

If you have six people all listening to the same person speaking, you’ll often have two or three different versions of what was heard. It’s important to become the person who says “what I heard was” instead of “what you said was.”

“What you said” is accusatory. The mistake is often in the hearing, not in what was said. Learning to say those words just opens the conversation to this possibility: “Maybe I got this wrong.”

Even if they did say it wrong, you are inviting them to come clean that up, and you’re doing it in a way that avoids the shutting down that comes with defensiveness. Whenever you say “but what you said is,” you’re making them wrong and inviting an unproductive confrontation.

So be very conscious of your choice of words. Get comfortable saying “what I heard was.” It’s a safe way to have clean conversations.

– Roxanne Emmerich

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