Taking time to collect your thoughts before replying is often a smart move to make in your conversations. This gives you the opportunity to choose between responding wisely rather than reacting impulsively to what other people say to you. That way, you can do your part to maintain rapport in your conversations with others even when things become challenging.
The following suggestions are designed to help you prepare in advance for the challenge of responding wisely in any situation you face:
o Pause before replying.
Give yourself a brief moment to collect your thoughts and weigh your emotions before responding to another person's remarks. Pausing is also perceived as a classy gesture. It shows subtle respect for what the other person has to say and makes the other person feel important in that moment. This is a lot better than jumping into a conversation before the other person has finished speaking because you'd rather talk than listen.
o Let other people be right the majority of the time.
Another way to looking at this is to stop telling other people they are wrong. When you do this, it automatically makes the other person feel defensive. The fact is that everyone hates to be corrected and what we really want is to be understood, liked, and respected. Now granted, there may be some important issues that may bring up opinions that are going to be completely opposite of yours. But unless it is the right time and place for a rational debate, it's sometimes better to just let it go for the moment. Get in the smart habit of letting the other person feel they are right most of the time and you'll do a lot towards building better relationships.
o Don't kill their enthusiasm with unsolicited advice.
We all face situations where we listen to other people talk about their individual challenges and want to help them by offering our own perspective on the subject. But often times, people will interpret differently your motivation for doing so. Perhaps they feel that you're passing judgment on them or that you're acting superior to them. Maybe, it's a situation where the other person merely wants to vent their emotions and simply wants you to listen instead of trying to fix their problems. A wise tactic in regards to giving unsolicited advice is to hold off until it's clear to you that the other person truly wants your feedback. Or you could reach out to the other person by saying, "This may be none of my business, but I have a few observations from where I'm sitting that you might find valuable if you choose." Either of these tactics is more elegant than bluntly telling other people what's wrong with them.
o Admit when you're wrong.
Sometimes it's hard to swallow your pride when admitting that you haven't been right about something. I've been particularly guilty of this and my friends have even given me the unflattering nickname of "Mr. Know-It-All." But a little humility on your part will help you become more reachable to others. If you also apologize for any harm that you've caused, you'll convert your errors into an honest display of sincerity which people will naturally appreciate.
o Reinforce the other person with a sincere compliment.
Giving the gift of a warm, sincere compliment will usually raise the self-esteem of the other person. This is particularly true if your compliment is specific and backed by evidence. An example of this would be, "You have a nice sense of taste. Those colors you're wearing go so well with your beautiful blue eyes." Sometimes people will reject your compliment, but that's more their problem than yours as long as your message comes from the heart. The extra bonus for you is that raising the self-esteem of another person with a sincere compliment also causes you to see the good in others.
o Sum up what they said.
When a lot of ideas and information occur during a conversation, it makes sense to spend a moment taking an inventory of what has been discussed. This process allows the speaker to clarify any unclear ideas and correct any inaccuracies in your interpretations. The side benefit of summing up a conversation is that it demonstrates that you value what the other person has offered you.
o Sometimes it's best to not say anything.
The best response may be no response at all. This is especially true in delicate matters where saying the wrong thing is costlier than remaining quiet. This happened to me recently when my brother lashed out at me for something that I did to him twenty years ago. Instead of starting an argument or telling my brother how he was wrong for blaming me for something that I didn't intentionally do so long ago, I just shut my mouth and let the moment pass. By not adding more fuel to the fire, I was able to avoid an unnecessary battle and was able to get past a potentially regrettable situation.
When you choose to respond instead of react, you allow yourself the best opportunity to succeed in each conversation you engage in. All it takes is the awareness and discipline to withhold your initial reaction until you have more time to evaluate exactly what the other person meant and what is most appropriate for you to do or say in that particular situation.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When you learn to respond wisely instead of react impulsively, you take a giant step towards improving your relationship through the mastery of your communication. All it takes is the proper awareness and the discipline to withhold your response until you've decided on a proper course of action.