Tongue Fu!®: How to Deal with Difficult People Without Becoming One Yourself

Would you like to know what to do when:

* people complain, gossip, tease, blame or argue?
* people are accusing you of something you didn’t do?
* people keep interrupting you and won’t listen to reason?
* someone at work is not treating you with the respect you deserve?
* a customer, coworker or family member is getting on your last nerve?u

We’re taught math, science and history in school; however we’re NOT taught how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one ourselves.

That’s where Tongue Fu!® – martial arts for the mind and mouth – comes in.
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Tongue Fu!® is a trade-marked process (and course and book) that’s been endorsed by Tony Robbins who calls it “terrific,” and Executive Book Summaries who says it’s a “MUST for anyone who deals with the public.” It has been taught to groups as diverse as Honolulu Police and Boeing and featured in Readers Digest and Washington Post.

These are the techniques you wish you’d been taught back in school on how to deal with the challenging situations you deal with on and off the job. Read ‘em and reap.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #1. “What can I do when people complain?”

When people complain, don’t explain, Take the AAA Train. Explaining why something wasn’t done when it was supposed to be done makes people angrier because explanations come across as excuses. Instead, Agree, Apologize, Act. “You’re right, Mrs. Smith, we were supposed to send that material to you last week, and I’m sorry you didn’t receive it yet. If I could please have your name and address I’ll personally put that brochure in an envelope and make sure it goes out today.” Voila. Complaint over!

Tongue Fu!® Tip #2: “What can I do if people accuse me of something untrue?”

Whatever you do, don’t defend or deny it. If someone blindsides you with an unfair allegation, “You women are so emotional!” and you protest with, “We’re not emotional!” you’ve just proven their point. Instead, put the conversational ball back in their court with, “What do you mean?” Asking them to explain themselves will cause them to reveal the real issue and you can address that instead of reacting to their attack. Imagine an upset client claims, “You don’t care about your customers.” Protesting, “That’s not true. We pride ourselves on our quality service” turns this into a “Yes we do – No you don’t” debate. Instead ask, “What makes you think that?” The client may say “I’ve left three messages and no one’s called back.” Aaahh, the real issue. Now you know what’s really bothering her and you focus on that instead of reacting to her attack.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #3: “What can I do if people are arguing?”

Stop disagreements with a hand gesture. No, not that one! If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder. The voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words, “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.” Remind them that John F. Kennedy said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.” If the conversation starts deteriorating into a gripe session again, make a T with your hands and call out, “Time out. Calling each other names won’t help. Instead, let’s focus on how we can keep this from happening again.”

Tongue Fu!® Tip #4: “What if I have to give bad news?”

Don’t use the apathetic words, “There’s nothing I can do” or “There’s no way I can fix this.” A front desk manager at a hotel asked, “What can we say when people grumble about the rain? There’s nothing we can do about the weather. We’re not Mother Nature.” I told her, “The words, ‘There’s nothing” and “There’s no way’ come across as a verbal dead-end. People will conclude you don’t care. They’ll get more louder in an effort to make you care. Use the words, ‘I wish,’ ‘I hope,’ or ‘There’s something’ to let people know you’re trying to help them. Say, ‘I wish I could bring out the sunshine for you. I know you were looking forward to some beach time’ or ‘I hope it clears up soon. In case it doesn’t, there’s something I can suggest. Here’s a list of rainy-day activities so at least you can make the most of your visit even if the sun doesn’t cooperate.'” In the real world, we can’t always give people what they want and we sometimes have to deliver bad news. We can at least give people our concern and offer options.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #5: “What can I do if someone makes a mistake?

If something’s gone wrong,don’t “should” on people. When we tell people what they should have done, they will resent us – even if what we’re saying is right. Why? People can’t undo the past. If they’re being reprimanded for something they can’t change, they’ll channel their feeling of helplessness or guilt into antagonism towards us. My mom used to tell me, “We can’t motivate people to do better by making them feel bad.” Telling people what they “should” have done makes them feel bad and doesn’t teach them how to do it better. When people make a mistake, be a coach, not a critic by using the words “in the future” to shape their behavior instead of shame it. Focusing on what they can do “from now on” helps them learn instead of lose face and they’re a lot more likely to do things differently “next time.”

Tongue Fu!®Tip #6: “What can I do if someone’s teasing me?”

Develop a repertoire of Fun Fu! remarks. Erma Bombeck (bless her soul) said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Are you sensitive about something? Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds. You have a choice. You can be hyper-sensitive about this and give people the power to embarrass you, or you can come up with clever, non-combative comebacks and keep your wit(s) about you.

Want an example? I ran into a very tall man in an airport. The people in front of me were laughing and pointing at him. I thought, “How rude!” Then he got closer and I could see his t-shirt which said, “No, I’m not a basketball player!” The back of his shirt said, “Are you a jockey?” This man told me he used to dread going out of the house because everyone made smart-aleck remarks. He finally decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he might as well join ‘em. “This is nothing,” he said with a smile, “I have a drawer full of these shirts at home. My favorite says ‘I’m 6’13” and the weather up here’s fine.’ Ever since I started wearing these shirts,” he added, “I’ve had fun with my height instead of being frustrated by my height.” Fun Fu! responses can help you lighten up instead of tighten up so no one has the power to get under your skin or knock you off balance.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #7: “What if I have to tell someone no?”

Turn “NO, you can’t because” into “YES, you can, as soon as.”

Imagine a staff member asks, “Can I have my paycheck early? I’m going on a trip this weekend” and you answer, “No you can’t have your paycheck because it hasn’t been approved by payroll.” That’s the truth, however people will get upset because they feel you’re brushing them off.. The words “can’t because” are like a verbal door slamming in their face. Want good news? You can often approve requests with the words, “Sure you can, as soon as” or “Yes you can, right after.” Re-word your reply to, “Yes, you can have your paycheck, as soon as it’s approved by payroll. Why don’t we give them a call, explain the circumstances and see if there’s any way they can speed things up.” One manager said, “I can’t wait to use this idea at home. My kids see me as a ‘big meanie’ because I’m always telling them ‘no.’ Next time they ask if they can go outside and play with their friends, instead of saying, ‘No you can’t, because you haven’t done your homework,’ I’m going to say, ‘Sure you can, as soon as you finish your homework.’ Instead of seeing me as the one blocking what they want, this makes them responsible for getting what they want. It changes the whole dynamic of our relationship.”

Have these been helpful? Want more ways to turn conflicts into cooperation and keep your cool – even when other people aren’t? Check out Tongue Fu!®and Tongue Fu! at School.

Are you thinking, “I’ve tried these win-win approaches and they work with most people. However, there’s ONE person in my life who ignores all this.”

You may be dealing with a bully. Check out my Never Be Bullied Again video and take this quiz to see if you’re dealing with what I call a 5%er. If so, the tips in my Bully books can keep that person from mistreating you and ruining your quality of life.

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Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create mutually-respectful communications. Her work- including POP!, Tongue Fu!, Take the Bully by the Horns and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and on NPR and MSNBC and presented to clients as diverse as National Geographic, Four Seasons Resorts, Capital One, Accenture, Boeing and Cisco.

Tongue Fu!® How to Lead and Influence with Respect

Thanks to ChosunBiz – South Korea’s largest newspaper – for interviewing me for a cover story. Thought you might enjoy highlights from our interview with these Tongue Fu! tips on how to lead and influence with respect … because everyone wants, needs and deserves to be treated with respect.

1.   What is the core of new elements for 21st Century leadership?

We are no longer in the information age; we are in the connection age. Information is no longer enough to earn people’s attention and respect. If what we’re trying to communicate isn’t connecting, we’re wasting everyone’s time.

This is different from the 20th-century charismatic leadership because that was based on “I am the boss, you have to listen to me. I’m  senior to you, you must pay attention and do what I say.”

Journalist Eleanor Clift says, ‘We’re all in a race to be relevant. ” In today’s short-attention-span world of INFObesity, if we don’t make what we’re saying personally relevant to whoever we’re trying to connect with; they will ignore us and nothing will get done.

2.  How can leaders express their empathy when talking to employees?

First, ask themselves before they say anything, “How would I feel if this was happening to me? How would it feel to be on the receiving end of this message?”

Those four words “How would I feel ” are the quickest way to understand – and empathize with – what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

Second, by prefacing what you say with “.” and then inserting how you anticipate the employee is feeling.

For  example, ” I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to find out we’re going to have to start from scratch after you’ve spent several weeks on this.”

Or “I can only imagine how tired you must be after putting in a 10 hour day yesterday, so please know how much I appreciate you staying late again to get this project finished.”

3. How can CEO’s make other people feel comfortable and empowered when they’re talking?

SIT DOWN. As long as you are standing up and other people are seated, your body language is reinforcing that you are in the superior position and they are in the inferior position. It seems like you’re  towering over them. It diminishes them, makes them feel small and makes them feel you’re the teacher and they’re the students. This perpetuates the “I’m in control, you’re not” leadership style.

When you sit down, you level the playing field. It’s a way of saying, “We are on equal ground, we can see things eye to eye. It encourages people to speak up because they feel you are one of them instead of above them.”

Next, say “In the past …” For example, “in the past, you may have felt your opinion didn’t matter.”

“In the past, employees may have been punished for sharing honest feedback that appeared to be critical.”

Then,  bridge with “and now…”

“And now, we welcome your honest input because we rather know what’s not working so we can fix it.”

“And now, we encourage you to point out what we can do better because we want our company to be more productive and profitable.”

4.   How can senior CEOs overcome the generation gap and connect with younger employees?

First, make young people the expert. Give Millennials an opportunity to showcase and share what they know, what they’re good at.

For example, say “Our organization wants to be even more relevant to millennials. As a 20-something, we welcome your suggestions on how we can describe our products and services in ways that make them more appealing to your friends. What are your recommendations on how we can do that?”

Or, ask for advice on how to leverage social media and new tech devices.

Say, “We know we could do a better job being more current and staying up-to-date with all things digital. What do you think we could be doing to reach more young people with apps,  Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other popular online options?”

5.  How can young CEOs and leaders communicate better with older managers?

First, take notes.

Young people are often quick thinkers who tend to get impatient when older managers start talking about “In the old days…”  or “How we used to do this …”

Carry a notepad with you and jot down what people are saying. Instead of getting distracted, interrupting or cutting them off, it helps you stay focused on what they’re saying.

When they’re finished talking, paraphrase what they said from your notes. This shows respect and that you really heard them.

Then,  move the conversation to what can be done about the situation.

Resist the urge to check a digital device (a laptop, iPad or smartphone) when older people are talking. Put it face down on a nearby surface or turn away from your laptop and LOOK at the person speaking.

Don’t even glance at your smartphone if it pings. Non-digital natives will never believe you’re listening if you’re checking your digital device. They feel disrespected.

6.  What kind of TONGUE FU!® or INTRIGUE skills can be used to earn people’s respect and favorable attention in the following situations?

A) Town hall:

Address the time.   Anxiety is defined in two words – not knowing. If people don’t know how long you’re going to talk, they’re not listening, they’re in a state of resentful anxiety.

For example, say, “I know it’s 7 PM on a weeknight and you’ve already put in a long day and many of you have children waiting for you at home… so we’re going to keep this town hall meeting to 45 minutes so you can all get back to your families at a reasonable hour.”

Or, if this is a controversial issue, address the elephant in the room.

Say, “We know this is a highly charged issue and people have strong feelings. So, to make sure the discussion stays pro-active and everyone has an opportunity to speak, we are going to follow these ground rules.”

B) a meeting with managers when you want the truth.

Be straightforward that you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth – even if it’s not good news.

Say, “I can only imagine you might be reluctant to tell us what’s not working because you wonder if you’ll be blamed for it. Our priority here is not to find fault, it is to find solutions. We ask you to please share your honest assessment of what’s undermining our effectiveness. We can’t fix what’s wrong if we don’t know what’s wrong. Thank you in advance for giving us the truth even if it’s not pretty. We will all be better for it.”

You’re welcome to share these questions/answers with your team at your next staff meeting.  Hope it catalyzes an important conversation about how to earn people’s attention and cooperation by influencing with respect.

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Want to share these Tongue Fu!® and INTRIGUE leadership approaches with your group?  Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to keynote your convention or company meeting. Discover for yourself why her inspiring presentations receive raves from such clients as Boeing, Cisco, Intel, Four Seasons, Capital One and National Geographic,  Also,  check out her TEDx talk on Intrigue and Influence with Respect – and her books Tongue Fu!® POP! and Washington Post Bestseller Got Your Attention?