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  • Speak softer
  • Speak slower
  • Look the person in the eye
  • Relax and take a deep breath
  • Use I statements*
  • Uncross legs and arms
  • Take another deep breath
  • Acknowledge another’s position: "I can appreciate your situation…"
  • Listen

* I Statements:

Often we bring up an issue by starting with the word "you." We follow "you" with "always," or "never."

When we approach someone this way, it sounds to them as if we blame them for the problem. (Maybe we do!) Most people react defensively when they feel attacked. Right away, we have an argument going.

If instead of "you always," we start with "I feel," it is much more likely that we will be heard. That's a good start for getting our own needs met.

For example, we might say to a teenage son:

"You always come home from school, drop your stuff in the middle of the table, and take off with your friends. You never help out around here!"

Imagine for a moment how you would respond if you were the kid whose parent had just said that. What would you be thinking – "Oh gee, I really ought to do more around here!" – or, "Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before. They're always on my back!"

What if we said, "I feel pretty frustrated right now because the house was clean when I left this morning and now it's messy again. Would you please pick up your books and jacket and put them away before you go out?"

Assuming this was said in a pleasant tone of voice (but not syrupy or phony), it's more likely we'll actually get some cooperation with the second try.

Use "I feel" instead of "You always."

Be specific about what you want.

Keep it in the present instead of generalizing to the past or future.