We all have communication tactics to get people to think and behave the way we want them to. The reason people use these methods is because there is a pay-off: the tactic either relieves stress, reinforces an old habit, or elicits a specific response from another person. Here are five communication tactics that work in the short term.
1. Let Out a Heavy Sigh
This lets the other person know you are stressed or irritated. Usually someone will notice and ask, “What’s wrong?” or “How can I help you?” If that happens, then your sigh helped you to get the help or attention you were seeking.
2. Roll Your Eyes
When you disagree with someone but don’t have the courage or energy to get into a debate, simply roll your eyes. This lets people know you disagree–but not enough for the disagreement to be worth the bother. If they shut up, you win. If they get angry you can use their anger against them by suggesting that they take things too seriously.
3. Give the Silent Treatment
If you are angry with someone walk around and purposely avoid eye contact. Don’t greet them; don’t laugh at their jokes; and don’t engage in small talk. They’ll eventually get the message that something’s up. If they ask, “Are you upset with me?” say, “I don’t want to talk about it,” emphasize the word “don’t” if you are angry, and emphasize the word “talk” if you want to portray disappointment.” If they really, really, really, care about you they will beg for your attention, and that feels super good.
4. Apologize Up Front
Start a sentence with, “I have something to say, (PAUSE) but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” This will alert the other person that you are about to drop a bomb, but they will beg you to speak your truth anyway. This way you have free license to dredge up all that you’ve been with-holding for the last several months, or even years.
5. Dangle the Bait
Start the sentence with a version of, “Someone said XYZ about you, but I can’t tell you who said it.” This is sure to create some drama and paranoia. It helps you to feel like you know something they don’t, and puts you in a one-up position.
I write these things in jest to bring to light all the ways we human beings use reactive or manipulative communication to one-up someone, avoid a difficult conversation or to pay someone back for a grudge. In No-Drama Leadership I make a bold claim that much of our communication is either reactive or manipulative. If we use these tactics knowingly it’s manipulation. If we resort to these behaviors out of habit it’s reactive.
Manipulative, reactive, and even soft skills may work in the short term, but No-Drama Leaders seek to use communication as strategy for achieving a bigger end result.
Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org