Here it is. The secret to reducing conflicts, relationship anxiety, and confusion. It’s also deviously effective in combating passive aggression too. It’s one question, that can be asked several ways. It seems simple in theory but like any change to our communication and behavior, it will take some practice. My favorite part of this secret is that it works across all communications. Verbal, email, texting, you name it. Are you ready? It’s 2 words. “Wait … What?” No, that was it. You say, Wait … What?
I told you it was simple. Let’s walk through how it works. Have you ever been in an argument with someone and you find yourself making a full circle to discover after a little bit of yelling and frustration that you were both saying the same exact thing? Just saying it differently. I mean we never admit it to the other person, but we do realize that maybe an actual fight didn’t have to happen. What if at that first moment of annoyance, you asked your loved one. Wait … what do you mean? Wait, I’m confused, what?
How about relationship anxiety? Have you ever handed your phone to someone to get their opinion on text messages? I did it just last week. My situation was professional and guess what that created? A moment of making up stories about what the customer meant and/or needed. The verdict of course, was to ask this customer what she meant. Wait, I’m not sure I know what is expected, can you explain more? Wait, I’m not sure I understand, can I give you a call to discuss? And when this is our personal relationships, think about how much drama you can avoid with “wait … what?”
This also works for parents with teenagers, asking them to explain themselves further can be super helpful to you not jumping to conclusions and the kids having the opportunity to think things through a bit more.
Think of all the confusion we can solve with a pause “wait” and the most simple, neutral question, “what?” Assuming you use a neutral tone in your voice.
As a bonus, this is also helpful with those folks in your life who tend to be a wee bit or a lot bit passive aggressive. Let’s face it, passive aggression is a way to avoid conflict. Using your most neutral voice or text say, Wait … What? This gives people an opportunity to explain further. Sometimes that’s helpful. Other times, they will respond with a “never mind or forget it.” The bonus, knowing that when you consistently ask for further clarity, those that just want to be jerks, will find someone else to be passive aggressive with. Reducing the overall drama for you in that relationship.
Give it a try. The next time you have a negative emotion or confusion around someone’s communication. Don’t jump to conclusions, make up stories about them, recount your relationship history … simply ask, wait … what?