Responding to Colleagues Remarks and Questions Effectively
There are always times, both in business and in social situations, when we are not happy with what someone else says or does. We may disagree with them, think a question they ask is irrelevant or silly, or have to deal with rude remarks. Sometimes it is best to ignore negative comments, but sometimes we have to find the right way to respond.
In the American workplace, we strive to maintain balance and harmony by remaining polite. It is not acceptable to be rude or too blunt, as it may create negative feelings and tension.
Here are some guidelines that you may find helpful when responding to remarks and questions, especially when tact and diplomacy are required.
1. Always begin on a positive note You may be upset about something that a person did or said, but don’t forget about all the good things that they do. Begin your conversation by praising them for something that you admire about them. Be genuine about your praise. Somehow bad news just doesn’t sound as bad when it comes after praise. The person is still thinking about what you like about them and how well they are doing in a certain task, which makes the criticism more tolerable.
Let's look at some examples:
I appreciate your candidness.
I appreciate your honesty.
I can always count on you to be open and honest.
Thank you for your comments.
You make a good point.
That’s great. I agree with you.
I appreciate your input; you are really thinking.
I always welcome your ideas. That’s what makes our discussions so great!
Thanks for your input.
I never thought about that in quite that way.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
2. Don’t be too direct when responding to bad ideas Rather than blurting how you really feel, take a step back and think about what you want to say before you say it. What is the message you want to convey? Remember that it is necessary to be tactful. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t say what is on your mind; it just means that you need to be careful about the words you choose.
Let's look at some examples of how we can respond to bad idea or input about a project:
I appreciate your input and welcome your ideas. While we can certainly think about that, right now we need to focus on __________. Let’s keep your idea in mind. I believe we will be able to use it at a later time.
I really like your idea about that. Although we can’t use it for this project, we may want to come back to that at a later time. I was thinking more along the lines of ______ or ______. What are your thoughts on that?
Although we are looking for a different direction for this project, you make a really good point.
We can certainly consider that as one of our possible solutions to the problem. What are our other options? Does anyone have any thoughts? Has anyone thought of _____?
That’s a possibility. We also might want to consider _________.
That’s certainly something to consider. What does everyone else think?
How does everyone feel about John’s suggestion? Any comments?
We can certainly discuss your point in more detail at a later time. Let’s finish this discussion now and talk about it at the end of the meeting.
I absolutely understand what you are saying.
That sounds like something we should keep in mind for future projects.
That’s definitely an option.
We’re asking everyone to save their opinions until the end of the meeting, so that we can end on time today.
We can talk more about this after the meeting, if you like.
That’s something to think about.
3. Stay positive and keep a smile on your face Listen to what your colleague has to say, and do not interrupt him in the middle of an idea, even if it is a bad one. When he finishes his thoughts, stay positive and then respond. Even if you are person who likes it when others are direct with you, the negative or very direct approach does not usually go over well with most people. Let's for a second consider how a typical politician may answer a tricky question or make a comment about a hot topic. They speak so indirectly while maintaining their composure and smile that we really aren't sure what they really said. I'm not saying that this is always a good approach when dealing with others, but this is a good example of how someone can answer a question without really saying anything negative or concrete.
Here are some words to avoid saying but impossible wrong incompetent useless crazy bad weird absurd don't ridiculous stupid
Here are some sentences to avoid:
That’s a bad idea.
Are you crazy?
I don’t know what you mean.
That won't work.
That will never work.
That’s no good.
I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
Instead of the negative, focus on using positive words and phrases, such as the following:
understand your opinion
know what you're saying
That’s a great idea
Let’s work it out together
A team effort
Value your thoughts, ideas, or opinion
Seek your advice
Run something by you
4. Comments you can make regarding ideas that cannot be addressed immediately: Here are some ideas you might find helpful when addressing ideas we need to put off.
We can certainly discuss that. Let’s set up a time to talk about it after the meeting.
Your idea is a great one. Let’s finish discussing this project and then come back to that. I’d like to hear more about it.
I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s stay with our agenda for the moment and come back to that at the end of the meeting.
That might be something we can put on our agenda for our next meeting. Does everyone agree?
You make a good point. We may want to revisit that at a later time.
5. Excusing yourself from a meeting, telephone conference call, party, etc. If something comes up unexpectedly, or if you need to end a call, meeting, or face-to-face conversation, follow these guidelines and review the following examples:
Ending a meeting that you are running The following guidelines for ending a meeting you are running may be helpful to you
Apologize for having to end the meeting
State why you must end the meeting
Thank everyone for attending
Let's look at the following examples 1. I apologize for having to end the meeting so abruptly, but I see that we are running over in time, and I must get to my next meeting. If anyone has a question or additional information they feel is important, please email me and we can put it on the agenda for next week. Thank you so much for coming, and I will see you next week.
2. I’m afraid we will have to end the meeting now; it looks like our time is up already and there is someone else waiting to use the room. We will pick up next week with item number ___ on our agenda. I will also email you a new agenda for next week’s meeting. Please email me with any questions you have. Thank you all for coming today.
3. I’m sorry to have to end the meeting, however I must take this important phone call. Let’s reschedule the meeting to discuss the rest of the agenda for tomorrow at 1pm. Thanks so much.
Leaving a meeting early without notifying the leader earlier
Apologize for having to leave the meeting early
State why you need to leave the meeting, if it's an appropriate time to do so.
Examples 1.I apologize for having to leave early; I have an appointment that I must attend. Could you please email me with any important information or discussions? Again, excuse me for having to leave early.
2. I’m so sorry to have to leave; I just received an important phone call from my daughter’s teacher at school. It looks like my daughter is sick and I need to go and pick her up. Please send me the minutes of the meeting, and I will see you soon.
Leaving a meeting with prior notification If you have already told the facilitator of the meeting prior to the meeting that you will be leaving the meeting early, you can either state briefly that you need to leave when it is time, or just excuse yourself when you need to go.
Let's look at some examples 1. Excuse me everyone (nod to facilitator)
2. I apologize for having to leave a little bit early. Please excuse me.
3. If the meeting is in progress and you feel it is better to leave without interrupting, you can quietly get up and leave without saying anything. You may nod to the facilitator for confirmation if he/she looks at you.
Ending a face-to-face meeting
Apologize for having to end the meeting, early (if you have to end it early).
If ending the meeting on time, make a closing statement.
Thank participant(s) for attending.
Let's look at some examples 1. I apologize for having to end our meeting early. Let’s pick up tomorrow at the same time. Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
2. It looks like our time is up, so we will have to end here. Thanks for coming everyone. See you next week.
3. Let’s end the meeting here and wait until next week to discuss the last item on our agenda. This item is going to take awhile, so I want to make sure that we have enough time for a discussion about it. Thanks so much everyone.