Observing this I was struck by the interaction. The stall holder did not accuse her of being a thief but achieved her aim of getting the bag less accessible with no unpleasant accusations or a scene. This was done by using a form of words that was not confrontational, that implied she had the customers interests at heart, that gave the customer the benefit of the doubt, that allowed the customer to retain her dignity and that assumed the best of the customer.
It struck me that these principles are a helpful formula when trying to address a sensitive or difficult issue. When trying to decide what and how to say something it can be hard to find the right form of words, so people often say nothing at all. Yet the communication approach can become clearer if you use a respectful tone and assume:
- The issue is an oversight and unintended
- The person is fundamentally good and doing their best
- You are giving the information for their benefit
- A stance that helps them preserve their dignity
Think of a recent example where you wanted to say something but were silenced by a fear of the potential reaction.
- If you adopted the assumptions above, what could you have said?
- How can these ideas help you address difficult conversations?