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· How can you say you won’t come? You know how important it is to me.
· How can you say that about my family? I wouldn’t say that about yours.
· How can you say you aren’t going to the staff meeting? It’s mandatory, you know.
You want someone to do something. The person indicates he or she isn’t going to do it. You responds with phrases like those above. What’s the problem?
In all the examples, the speaker starts off with a question, which could be a good thing except that the specific words used tell the other person that you aren’t really asking a question so you can learn about his thinking. Implicit in this “question” is underlying shock, disbelief and judgment. If you use these kinds of phrases, the other person knows you are expressing disagreement, but without taking responsibility or stating your position clearly, and non-manipulatively.
It would be bad enough if the speaker in the examples stopped at the question mark. By continuing, it’s clear the speaker is trying to pressure or coerce the other person. But in a sneaky way.
People don’t like to feel coerced, and tend to argue back, so using these kinds of phrases tends to ignite argument, primarily because of the lack of directness in expressing an opinion.
Make It Better:
So, you have an opinion. You have a right to an opinion. You also have a right to talk about your opinion. How do you do that, in the spirit of dialogue, rather than pressuring?
· I know you don’t want to go to my class reunion, but it’s really important to me. Is there anything I can do to help you enjoy going?
· Families can always seem strange, Bob. I get upset when I feel you’re making negative comments about my family.
· Have you considered the consequences of not attending the staff meeting? I understand that they’ve said it’s mandatory.
· I can tell you don’t want to…, and I’d really like to know how come you feel so strongly about that.