What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say
By Andrea Wachter, LMFT
In a recent blog, I wrote about speaking your truth when you are upset with someone, rather than stuffing it down or blasting it out. To that end, I wanted to share some practical one-liners for those times when you are caught off guard. Many of us feel like a deer in headlights when someone says something insulting, hurtful, or presumptuous and we have no comeback prepared. Like learning any new language, the language of assertive yet respectful communication takes practice. So here are some ideas for you...
~What makes you ask that?
~What makes you say that?
~I'll have to get back to you on that.
~I need to take some time and think about it.
~That's not going to work for me.
~I know I agreed to do that, but I changed my mind. I'm very sorry.
~I understand that's how you feel. And this is how I feel.
~It's okay if we disagree.
~What do you need from me right now?
~It's okay for you to be mad, but it's not okay for you to be mean.
~I am wondering if you would be willing to lower your voice because it is upsetting me and I really want to hear what you have to say.
~If you can't lower your voice, I am going to have to take a break from this conversation even though I really do want to hear what you have to say.
~I feel a lot of strong emotions over what you just said, and I don't want to react harshly; so I would like to take some time before I respond.
~I am curious: what your intention is in saying that?
~I will totally take a look at that.
~This feels awkward but I need to tell you that __________________.
~I am making up a story about what you are thinking. Can I check it out with you and see if it's true?
~I want to hear what you have to say but the way you are saying it is scaring me.
~What you have to say is important to me but it's getting lost in the way you are saying it.
~I am so sorry that I hurt your feelings. That was truly not my intention.
~I have a request to make. If you can do it, that's great and if you can't, that's fine too. I am just going to ask.
~I know you love me and I don't think you are intending to be hurtful so I need to tell you that when you say ____________to me, it is very hurtful and I would so appreciate it if you would try to stop.
~I would really appreciate it if you would stop commenting on my ______________.
~I would really appreciate it if you would stop _____________________.
~I am not sure what to do at this point because I have asked you to stop ___________ and you continue to do it so something needs to change here.
~I need to ask for a change in the way we talk or are with each other and I am hoping you are willing to hear me out.
~I am not sure how to respond to that. Give me a minute if you would.
~I realize I have been holding something inside for a while that I would like to tell you. I needed to take the time to figure out how to say it in a responsible way.
~I have something hard to say and I am wondering if you would be willing to just listen and hear me out?
~I have something to tell you that feels really hard to say. What I would most appreciate from you after I tell you is ____________________.
~I am wondering if there is a way that I could have worded that that would have made it easier for you to hear?
~I don't necessarily need you to agree or understand what I am saying but I would really appreciate it if you would try to accept it.
~It seems like from your response that I may not have communicated clearly or that you may have misunderstood what I said (or did) I would like to try again if you are up for it.
~That really makes sense to me how you would feel that way.
~Thank you for telling me your perspective on what happened. I really want to try to understand how you feel.
~Thank you for telling me what you feel and need. I will, to the best of my ability try never to do or say that again.
~Thank you for telling me what you feel and need. I will never to do or say that again.
~That makes me very uncomfortable and I need to ask you to stop.
~I want us both to be able to share our thoughts and feelings but in order to do that, we need to take turns. Do you want to go first or second?
~I wasn't done speaking yet. Can I continue?
~I am wondering if I can express something and just ask you to listen until I am totally finished?
~When you say (or do) _____________ I feel ______________ (preferably one word here, for ex. sad, angry, hurt, judged, etc.) and I would very much prefer it if you _____________.
~This is scary for me to say so I am hoping you can really hear me and try not to judge me or give me any advice.
~I know we already spoke about _________ but it doesn't feel complete to me. Would you be open to talking about it some more?
~ I wish I had said that differently. Can I get a do-over?
~What are you wanting to have happen right now?
~What do you need in order for this to feel complete?
Reprinted from: The Huffington Post October 2012