What To Say When You Complain

Never Say, “You Should Have…”

Here’s what to say when you need to complain but don’t want it to be off-putting. It works for parents with children, for bosses, and, frankly, for just about anyone who wants to persuade instead of just plain criticize.  Whenever you say, “You should have,” the other person immediately feels defensive, and probably will tighten up emotionally and mentally.

“You should have” implies that you feel you are smarter than they are.  (You may be, but there are better ways to demonstrate your superiority than saying “You should have.”)  And your words could feel like a guilt trip.  We all know how we feel around people that put guilt trips on us.  (We avoid them, if we can.)

So, here is a power statement that you can use as a template for all sorts of situations.

Let’s say you’re a sales manager and one of your sales people tells you about an approach he/she used that you don’t want your people to use.  Say something like, “Next time you’re in a situation like that, you’ll get better results if you….”

Or if you’re a parent, and, say, your daughter didn’t do well on an exam.  Instead of saying, “You should have,” instead say something like, “Let’s think about some ways you can be better prepared for the next exam, etc. etc.”

One additional benefit of this communication tactic is that it focuses on future performance instead of encouraging brooding about past performance.  It signals that you have moved on, and so should the other person.

Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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