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11. The bad translator

When people speak to you

Your “inner translator” might be
up to some devilish tricks!

Remember the bad translator we mentioned on the last page? The good news is that we have time on our side!

People say “take a deep breath and count to ten” when someone has said something that has hurt you or made you angry. While you count to ten, you can make your “bad translator” do a better job! Here are your “count to ten” actions (count to twenty if you like - remember you’re important enough to take time to think):

  • Don’t blurt out the first thing that springs to mind. All that “Yeah, but” “No, but” makes it sound like you’re in the wrong and are trying to excuse yourself. And when we’re angry, we often say the wrong thing.
  • Make sure you understand what’s been said. If you’re not sure, calmly ask for more explanation.
  • Don’t interrupt. Show respect for what they are saying to you.
  • Check your body language. Is your body preparing itself to fight, or to run away? Use your brain to over-ride this “fight or flight” reflex, unless you really are going to have a fight! Are you acting nervously, or shifty? Do you appear to be taking them seriously?
  • If you need time to think, ask for it. If they continue nagging or threatening or accusing, calmly tell them you can’t respond if they keep doing that.
  • Look at their body language. Use what you now know about self esteem, self confidence and communication styles to help you understand what they are saying. In the heat of the moment, an angry person may say things that they don’t really mean. A passive person may miss out a lot and hope that you can guess what they mean!

When you speak to others

If you know the person you’re talking to, think about how they communicate. If they are an aggressive communicator, be prepared to stay calm if you get an aggressive response. If they are a manipulative communicator, make sure they are taking on board what you are saying, and make sure they have agreed an action. If they are a passive communicator, you may have to spend extra time finding out their needs and things they’ve not said.

By developing these assertive communication skills, you will be able to keep conversations on track when there is a risk of anger and confusion.

More about communication styles

Here are a list of communication styles, listed in pairs. Try to spot these styles of communication in your day to day life, whether in your own communication or other people’s, on TV, in books etc. Get familiar with them and try to use more assertive communication.

Communication styleSigns of someone using this style of communication
Defensive. Objects to what you’re saying and defends their behaviour.
Open. Listens carefully without interrupting or objecting.
Attacking. Attacks and criticises you, twisting the conversation around to a different subject where they can criticise you instead.
Responsive. Doesn’t try to turn things against the other person, but willingly listens.
Denial. Suggests what you’re saying is untrue or unfair.
Accepting. Accepts what you’re saying.
Disrespectful. Devalues what you’re saying or your right to speak.
Respectful. Shows respect for both what is being said and the person saying it.
Closed. Doesn’t really listen properly and ignores you.
Engaged. Actively listens and asks for clarification if they don’t understand.
Inactive listening. Doesn’t make an effort to understand what is being said. Doesn’t pay attention.
Active listening. Listens, trying to understand the meaning of what you’re saying.
Rationalising. Interrupts you with excuses and reasons, and doesn’t really listen. Refuses to take any responsibility.
Thoughtful. Actively tries to understand their own behaviour that has led to the the situation you’re describing.
Uninterested. Listens, but with no interest.
Interested. Genuinely interested in what you’re saying.
Deceitful. Listens and agrees, but gives every impression that your suggestions will have little effect.
Sincere. Really wants to make personal changes if what you suggest is appropriate.

Next: 12. Feedback: making it workBack: 10. Listening and “feedback filters”

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