Say the Right Thing First

by Linda Larsen
copyright 2000

When someone espouses a point of view that is different from what you believe, or tells you that you were wrong about something, or expresses their anger to you in some less-than-professional manner, your automatic response may not be the most effective one to employ.

In order to understand this, let's first revisit the Linda Larsen Theory of Life. I believe that we are all driven by two basic needs: The need to LOOK GOOD and BE RIGHT.

(Many of our conversations are built around these needs irrespective of the needs of the other person.)

Something has to give here, and you are just the one to make it happen. All you have to do is to make certain that the first thing out of your mouth is a statement that in some way acknowledges what the other person believes or what they are feeling. Notice I didn't say "agree with them" - rather that you hear them and respect their feelings. Here are some examples:

  • "I can certainly understand why that would make sense to you."
  • "I can see how frustrating that would have been."
  • "I hear you. You're saying..." (Here you repeat basically what they just said, only in your words)
  • "Sounds like you have some information I don't have. Please tell me what that is.
  • When you're finished, I'll share some information I have. But you go first."
  • "You sound very committed to this position. I'm interested in hearing what led you to this conclusion."

In these examples, you see, you didn't first disagree with the other person by telling them they are wrong. Rather you acknowledged them and let them speak. By doing so, you have just accomplished 4 things:

  1. You honored their need to look good.
  2. You strengthened your relationship rather than weakened it.
  3. You created a possibility that you might actually hear something you didn't know (what a concept!) and...
  4. You have dramatically increased the odds that the other person will listen to you when they are finished.

And by the way, when you respond in this proactive, effective manner, you will look reeeeeeeally good!

Linda Larsen can be contacted at or email her at:


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