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November 20, 2015

Talking Up to People

shutterstock_245408077“Tact: the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
(Abraham Lincoln)

Most of us know that if you want to gain favor with someone, speak to them as if you look up to them. This doesn’t mean flattering them with false compliments, it just means talking up to them at the level they like to believe they occupy.

For instance, when speaking to an audience, I try to always assume that they are smart, dedicated, and well-intentioned. This way, for instance, I can appeal to their logic when pointing out, say, that the more we protect our kids from life, the less we prepare them for it.

Same principle holds true in all our relationships. When your child reports a bad grade, pause a little and then reply, “Aw, man—I know you must be disappointed.” This may be the last thing you wanna say, because deep down you really believe your kid doesn’t care about his grades at all, but say it anyways.

Similarly, when your spouse shows up late, pause and then explain, “Thanks for bustin’ it to get here. I’m just glad you made it here safe.” You may have sincere doubts about your spouse’s time management, but talking down to them in the moment…well, you know how that usually ends up.

I’m not saying to never confront someone—we preach all the time about Authentic Self Representation, especially in marriage. But this is always best done after some reflection upon longer-standing patterns, not in the heat of the moment. In those immediate times, assuming the best intent and speaking up to people has an amazing power to alter the interaction, and thus the relationship.

I mean, imagine if they actually started living up to how you see them?

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