6 Words and Phrases for Difficult + Daring Conversations

An excerpt from Step into Your Moxie by Alexia Vernon

The words that we use, from moment to moment, in a conversation where conflict could transpire (or has transpired) often determine whether things go difficult or daring. I recommend using the following words as often as possible:

Yes. My favorite agreement word. Ever. It makes someone instantly feel seen and heard. You can say “yes” after someone shares an idea, an opinion, or a feeling, but do refrain from saying “yes and” and then redirecting the conversation back to you. “Yes and” works great in comedy, but “yes” as a complete sentence usually works better in daring conversations.

Thank you. You can say “thank you” to someone for sharing where she is coming from, for being vulnerable, for telling you the truth, for helping you understand her perspective, or for acknowledging wrongdoing or committing to better behavior in the future.

What I want for us is… These words work great for communicating what you want from the conversation. Try not to use them to linguistically wrestle for power over someone but rather to propose something that the other person, no matter his or her perspective, likely wants too.

Tell me more. This phrase works whenever people are dropping into vulnerability and you want them to know you really want to hear what’s going on, even if it’s uncomfortable. Or, on the flip side, this short phrase is effective when you want to nudge people beyond surface talk so they can go to the source of what’s truly going on.

I’m sorry. This is a very appropriate response when you have truly done something wrong, you want to take responsibility for it, and even more important, you want to communicate what you will do differently moving forward. Sometimes you may be sorry for the way someone is feeling, or the way you unintentionally made her or him feel — even if you haven’t done anything super sorry-worthy. Be clear on what you are sorry for, and state that. (Again, please don’t think I’m giving you a hall pass for giving your power away. The kind of “I’m sorry” I’m recommending here is different from the “I’m sorry” you use when you feel insecure or actually want someone else to
apologize to you. “I’m sorry” must not be a quid pro quo.)

What do you need (from me) in order to move forward? When you brainstorm creative ways to
play nicely together in the future, the ultimate expression of compassionate (and super vulnerable) power is to ask what someone else would like to see from you now and in the future. This question alone can resurrect a relationship from collapse, if and when safety has been created in a conversation and everyone is fully committed to a mutually beneficial outcome.

About Alexia

Alexia Vernon is the author of Step into Your Moxie. Branded a “Moxie Maven” by President Obama’s
White House Office of Public Engagement, she is a sought-after speaking and leadership coach who
delivers transformational keynotes and corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies and other
professional groups and organizations, including the United Nations and TEDx. Visit her online at
www.alexiavernon.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the
World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library —
www.newworldlibrary.com.