This is one of my favorite phrases, as my children will attest, for letting someone know that the way they’ve said something could be interpreted to their disadvantage. Perhaps the person is in an irritable mood. He or she snaps at you. As I discussed in today’s Big Think blog “Surely There’s Another Way to Say That!” competent communicators search for better or best ways to say things. They’re able to see ahead to outcomes that might obtain from reacting to an ill-formed comment. If those outcomes are undesirable, they employ strategies to redirect the conversation.
With children, but also with adults at times, asking “Is there another way to say that?” lets them know that you might take what they said in a way that you, and perhaps they, would prefer to avoid. This one sentence has a dual purpose. It may lead to a kinder, more polite, effective statement or request from the child. And, it has the added advantage of teaching that what comes out of our mouths can be managed — that there are effective ways to speak and ineffective ways.
With adults in our lives, “Surely there’s another way to say that?” used sparingly can be effective as well. Here again, there’s a dual benefit. The person with whom you’re speaking might pause and consider another approach. This gives a conversation that would otherwise go awry, a new, potentially more productive route. The second benefit is the next time before this person speaks to you, especially about a contentious issue, he may think twice.
It’s a simple strategy, but a very useful one. Said without sarcasm, it can change the course of the conversation, your day, and over time, perhaps even a difficult relationship.