Among friends and colleagues alike, conversations can be full of negativity. Whether it’s an offhand comment or a lengthy discussion, pessimism can ruin your mood for the rest of the day.
However, everybody is “at least 75 percent responsible for how others treat them,” according to the Harvard Business Review. In her HBR article, author Kathleen Kelley Reardon, PhD, offers seven “Rs” for transitioning a dialogue from negative to positive.
1. Re frame. Instead of instantly responding to another person’s comment, try to rework your interpretation of it in a new, more positive light. For example, when “someone says, ‘I don’t want to fight about this,’ a useful reframe of that comment is, ‘This is a debate, certainly not a fight. And you’re a good debater, as I recall,'” Dr. Reardon wrote.
2. Rephrase. Perhaps one of the most common ways to decrease negativity is to take someone’s words and put them together in another, more upbeat way. Focus on the positive and spin the conversation to more neutral turf.
3. Revisit. To lighten the mood, think of a positive past experience and revisit it. If two individuals are discussing a particularly divisive topic, they can ease the tension by talking about a time they got along. Reminders of previous instances of cooperation and agreement can help them reach a mutually satisfying conclusion.
4. Restate. It’s easy to accidentally blurt out something that may offend others. In these cases, it’s best to “clarify or redirect negative wording,” according to Dr. Reardon. Use phrases like, “Perhaps there’s a different way to say that,” to give an individual the opportunity to restate him or herself.
5. Request. To steer clear of making assumptions, sometimes it’s best to ask the individual to explain what he or she said. The speaker may not have intended to sound so negative, so asking for clarification can be one of the best options.
6. Re-balance. Avoid instantly yielding your authority in the conversation by re-balancing the power. “One way to reduce the impact on you with your attitude — refusing to be upset — or by saying, ‘Fortunately, I’m not easily offended, especially by one-off situations like this,'” Dr. Reardon recommended.
7. Reorganize. Instead of trying to adjust the whole conversation at once, Dr. Reardon suggests “[changing] the priority of the issues.” Celebrate what you and the other person agree on, then move on to working out the negativity or source of disagreement in the conversation.
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