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"Sorry, But You Took It The Wrong Way."

"One way to understand communication is to view it as a people process rather than a language process." Jack R. Gibb


We are responsible for how we communicate with each other. This responsibility extends to being mindful of the words and phrases we use to express our thoughts and feelings. Ideally, communication is two-way; an open exchange of ideas is beautiful when it works. However, sometimes, one or both parties become defensive. The defensiveness results from how we hear each other and the energy we invest into defending ourselves.



Our message is well-intentioned, but we use terms and phrases that can sound uncaring like we are telling the other person how to think and feel. Or maybe how we frame our responses is likely a product of our frustrations, and if we took the time to reframe our thoughts, we would have better outcomes.


Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we say the first thing that comes to mind, not because we want to be malicious. Maybe at that moment, our emotions override our good judgment. Consequently, we have a responsibility to make things right despite our intent.


There are everyday statements that usually create defensiveness. Here are some examples:


  • "There you go again…"

  • "You're acting crazy…"

  • "You know that's not what I meant."

  • "You never listen to me."

  • "You are the problem."

  • "You are just overeating…"

  • "You are overreacting."

  • "Why are you making this such a big deal."  

  • "Whatever you say…"

  • "I don't even care; this is nonsense."

  • "You always do this (behavior)."

  • "You always blow things out of proportion."

  • "Stop acting like a child."

  • "You are so whiny."


Instead, try using the following statements to minimize defensiveness:


  • "Tell me more about what you are thinking."

  • "That is helpful to hear you say…"

  • "I recognize this is important to you."

  • "Usually, you don't respond this way; it seems upsetting."

  • "I appreciate hearing this from you; please allow me a moment to process my thoughts and feelings."


While challenging, there are times when you know you did nothing wrong, and you shouldn't have to issue an apology. You can still say, "I'm sorry for hurting your feelings." In this instance, you validate the other person's hurt feelings, showing empathy since communication is a people process. Communication, being a people process, means you share your thoughts with someone who might not see things the way you do.


Empowering Minds. Inspiring Lives.

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