Comebacks at Work | Kathleen Kelley Reardon

Summary of: Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation
By: Kathleen Kelley Reardon


Welcome to the summary of ‘Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation’ by Kathleen Kelley Reardon. This book demonstrates the art of crafting the perfect comeback in various professional contexts and dealing with toxic individuals. Sharpen your communication skills as you learn various tactics to engage with spoilers, critics, blamers, puppeteers, and complainers. Navigate through communication ruts, unwanted repetitive episodes, personal questions, and swift judgments as you uncover methods to break free from your inherent patterns and enhance your response. Discover the power of metaphors, the ‘R techniques’, and understanding the context of any situation to deliver meaningful retorts with precision and grace.

Handling Difficult People

Learn how to handle different types of difficult people by responding cleverly and taking control of the situation.

Are you struggling to come up with the right words when faced with difficult people? Whether it’s a critic, a blamer, a puppeteer, or even someone who always complains, there’s always a clever way to respond. When dealing with someone you want to frustrate by showing your superiority, try agreeing with them, using their comments against them, or responding sarcastically.

Accepting an insult as something positive is also a great way to defuse it. Like American painter Norman Rockwell, you can unexpectedly find merit in the criticism to turn the insult into a compliment. When dealing with a blamer, avoid attacking and instead turn things around. Note that fixing the problem is more important than placing blame.

If you encounter a puppeteer who manipulates others, turn the whole issue over to them. Make them untangle the barriers they’ve erected. This approach helps in avoiding extra work and taking control of the situation.

When dealing with a complainer, suggest the “thought stopping” method. Replace each negative thought with a positive one, or simply allow yourself to complain for only a limited time each day. This tactic helps break the habit of complaining.

Lastly, avoid the “it can’t be done” type of people. When faced with an unhelpful customer service rep, hang up and redial. Solve your issue with someone else.

In conclusion, knowing how to handle different types of difficult people is essential in life. Respond cleverly and take control of the situation to defuse a potentially sticky situation.

Overcoming Communication Obstacles

Harvard professor Chris Argyris explains how our past experiences create “master programs” that may not always work in tough situations. In his article, “Good Communication That Blocks Learning,” he offers examples of four common communication obstacles and how to overcome them.

Argyris explains that people often rely on learned responses when faced with challenging situations. However, these responses may not always be effective. According to Argyris, there are four common communication obstacles that people face. The first is “Communication ruts,” where people become stuck in a particular way of communicating. Argyris advises people to try to break out of these patterns by asking questions and genuinely listening to the responses. By doing so, people can become more open to new ideas and perspectives.

The second obstacle is “Unwanted repetitive episodes,” where people fall into the same dysfunctional patterns. Argyris suggests not being predictable and avoiding responding in the same way every time. Instead, he advises confronting the issue and communicating how the behavior made you feel.

The third obstacle is “Unwillingly divulging personal information.” Argyris suggests that oversharing personal information can damage your professional reputation. He offers tips for redirecting the conversation, such as politely declining to answer the question or changing the topic.

The final obstacle is “Jumping to judgment,” where people respond too quickly or defensively. Argyris advises taking a moment to think and reflect. He suggests asking questions for clarification and taking the time to understand the situation fully.

Overall, Argyris argues that by recognizing and overcoming these obstacles, individuals can improve their communication skills and become more effective communicators.

Overcoming Freeze in Challenging Situations

Discover how to overcome your hesitations and quicken your comebacks. UCLA psychologists found that social pain sensitivity is related to a gene associated with physical pain. If recalling a social rejection feels vivid and evokes past exclusions, you may have a rare variant of mu-opioid receptor gene. Analytical people may experience “comeback brain freeze” from overthinking. To improve, explore the source of hesitation, and practice a mental preparedness technique called ‘if-then planning.’

The Power of Metaphors

The use of metaphors can disarm anyone. Crafting your own or expanding on an existing one can provide you with a memorable comeback. Such as responding to an insult by calling yourself a babe in the woods and retorting with, “I thought out of the mouths of babes come words of wisdom.” It is also important to memorize a few comebacks to buy time while you think, such as “I’m going to step over here and pretend this didn’t happen. Care to join me?” or “There are times when silence is the only option. This is one of them.” The key is to use metaphors with the right tone, smile, or inflection.

R Techniques for Constructive Responses

The book suggests using “R techniques” to craft effective replies in challenging situations. These techniques include “reframe” to adopt a different perspective, “rephrase” to offer better wording, and “rejoin” to disarm offenders by agreeing. Other techniques are “revisit,” “restate,” “request,” “rebalance,” “reorganize,” “rebuke,” and “retaliate.” The goal is to respond constructively while avoiding unnecessary conflicts. The book emphasizes the importance of using both logic and emotion to decide what to say or do in a situation. The reader should also use comebacks that give people pause if an insulting person threatens their credibility or makes an unacceptable statement. However, the book reminds readers not to get pulled into unnecessary conflicts and to keep their goals in mind.

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