Simple Steps to Help Professionals Say What They Mean

Have you ever had someone say what I call “pretty words” to you but the tone of their voice and facial expression says something entirely different?  That kind of message can leave people feeling at least confused, but more likely can cause hurt feelings.  It can also put a strain, or more of a strain on a tenuous relationship with the double message effect that is given.


Why do people say one thing, but probably mean something quite different?  Many times people who use this style, called a passive-aggressive style of communication at least disagree with another person’s idea, etc. or may even be upset with the other person. However, by using this indirect type of communication they want to “sort of” say what they feel, but at the same time camouflage their true feelings somewhat with their motive
being to preserve the relationship.  Sadly, the double message often creates the exact opposite result.


It is a delicate and sometimes difficult challenge.  Remember these people are afraid to lose a relationship, and often they have utilized this style since childhood, so both tact and perseverance are required to help them be more direct


  • Step 1:  create a safe environment for them to share their ideas, feelings and even disagree with you openly.
  • Step 2:   Invite them to talk frankly with you, both letting them know they will not be judged, and that you will listen to them.
  • Step 3:   While you won’t guarantee you necessarily will agree with their position on a topic, reinforce you really want their honest input.
  • Step 4:   Let them know you value people who share their real feelings with you.
  • Step 5:   Reassure them they will not be rejected because they occasionally have a different perception of a situation, or feel hurt about something.

When these members feel emotionally safer, you may get a pleasant surprise.  The smile on their faces may be warm and real, rather than plastic, and their voice tones may become genuinely friendly.

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