Communicating with Empathy: 3 Phrases to Use When Someone is Irritated

You could just pull rank. But that may not move you toward your vision.

Instead, here are 3 things to say when someone is irritated. And yes, you should say something. Avoiding problems is a good way to create fester transfer, and that’s not good for culture.

Instead, communicate with empathy using these 3 phrases.

Remember, emotions aren’t the problem. They are the means. Irritation is a state of emotion that needs a leader who can speak with tactical empathy.

Irritation is a state of emotion that needs a leader who can speak with tactical empathy.

Phrase 1

1. Communicate you’re listening by stating, “It looks like you are…” or “It seems like you don’t want…”.

These phrases are great because you can communicate and affirm the irritated person’s frustration. It shows you’ve attempted to understand, but it doesn’t show you agree.

The first phrase will often prompt more conversation from the irritated party, which allows you to listen more and understand the problem better.

Phrase 2

2. “Look sometimes I can be…”

If you are the cause of the irritation, don’t beat around the bush. Certainly, don’t try to excuse yourself of the blame.

Tackle it head-on. Show up and confess your fault. The quicker you get that out of the way, the easier it will be to solve the situation.

And usually, phrase 1 and phrase 2 are all that are needed. But if there’s more needed, you can jump to phrase 3.

Phrase 3

3. “I want us to…would you like to…?”

Here we’re finding common ground – a common purpose. You’re not providing the answer or the solution. Instead, you’re leading the way for both of you to move together.

Phrase 3 is the negotiating phrase. You leave it open for them to show that they’re willing to solve whatever problem has created the irritation.

Whether you’re dealing with a parent, a teacher, or a ten-year-old, the same is true – people want to be heard, valued, and included in finding paths forward.

That is what leading with empathy is all about.