Avoid time-consuming conversations: create a friendly but determined distance


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There are conversations that you just don't have time for at the moment. How do you make that friendly, but definitely clear to potential interlocutors?

Avoid time-consuming conversations: create a friendly but determined distance

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Time management - but please be polite?

It always opens up Best of HR – Berufebilder.de® on the subject of time management. An important factor here is not to let other people steal your time. That sounds good to many people at first, but it also implies that you keep distancing yourself from others, saying “no” and possibly even being unfriendly and impolite, depending on your point of view. That is why the topic of saying “no” is a constant source of controversial discussion. A reader wrote to us:

“I find that Article really failed. There are really friendlier and more polite ways to deal with pushy people. You always meet twice in life. Often in different roles ... "

Correctly say “no”

In fact, it is just a question of his point of view, because in my opinion there are a number of ways not to let your time be stolen - for example, by saying “no” in a friendly but firm manner. Or by ending conversations that you don't have time for right from the start in a friendly, but decidedly manner, with polite little signals. The whole thing also has a psychological component and a biological background, as Manuel J. Smith in his book “Say No Without Scruples. The new method for increasing self-confidence and self-assertion ”, published in 2011 by the Munich publishing group explains:

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As a student, I attended the lectures of a young psychology professor named Joe, whose style of presentation was decidedly outspoken, unvarnished, and idiosyncratic. He did not leave the students with any of their naive ideas about the science of psychology. He refused to give the expected explanations about eerily fascinating deviations or about the normal course of thought processes, behavior and motivation. Instead of complicated theories as to why we behave in a certain way, he chose a simpler route. He contented himself with describing how a process takes place psychologically, starting from very simple assumptions and advising us to leave it at that. Based on his experience, he had come to believe that 95 percent of what is being offered for sale as scientifically sound psychological theory was pure nonsense, and that it would be a long time before we knew enough about our own functions to perform most of ours To be able to explain perceptions exhaustively. The veracity of Joe's argument is as compelling today as it was twenty years ago - and I fully agree with him. Lengthy technical or mystical explanations are often extremely interesting or even of literary value, but they are not only superfluous but also complicate the subject without adding an iota to our understanding. In order to be able to apply what tools psychology actually offers, it is more important to know what is useful than to know why it is useful. I find it pointless to think long and hard about why a patient is having trouble; this can degenerate into academic masturbation and may not produce a satisfactory result even after years of therapy. It can even be harmful. It is far more expedient to focus on what the patient is going to do to change their behavior than to consider why they are showing wrongdoing. Joe took away any illusions that psychologists are the new, all-knowing high priests of the human behavior. For example, he said in a lecture, “I hate students who ask me questions I don't know how to answer.” As you can imagine, Joe wasn't much different in his private life, despite being an expert on human behavior was, he too had his problems with the environment. Over the years I got to know Joe better and better, both as a friend and as a colleague, and found that he had the same problems with other people as I, and about the same extent. I made the same observation with other psychologists and psychiatrists. The doctorate and the knowledge acquired does not free us from having the same problems as our family members, neighbors, friends or even our patients, regardless of occupation and schooling. If our spouse or lover is unhappy about something, they can make us feel guilty without saying a word. A glance, a door that has been closed a little too loudly, or an icy request to switch to another television program are all sufficient. Joe once complained to me, "I haven't the faintest idea how you do it or why you react this way, but somehow I always feel guilty, even when there is no reason." But it's not just the spouses that pose problems for us. If parents or in-laws want to achieve something, they know how to reduce their grown-up sons and daughters to anxious children. We have all experienced how we get in a knot when mother suddenly remains silent on the phone, when the mother-in-law or father-in-law gives us a disapproving look, when mother or father make meaningful remarks, such as: "You seem very much to be busy, we don't even get to see you ”or:“ A nice apartment has become available just around the corner from us. Come over here tomorrow evening, then we can look at them together. ”As if family conflicts of this and other kind are not enough to make us unsure, we also have to deal with the problems that outsiders bring up to us. An example: You know very well that the auto mechanic did a bad job, but the workshop manager explains to you with great expertise and in great detail why the radiator is still overheating even though you have just paid over a hundred marks for the repair. Although it gives you the feeling that you don't understand anything about cars and can't handle them properly, you still have the suspicion that you have been cheated. Our friends are also causing problems. When a friend suggests that you do something you don't feel like doing, you almost automatically make excuses. You have to lie so that your friend is not offended, but at the same time you will feel guilty for lying to him. Every day brings new conflicts. Many people indulge the unrealistic belief that it is unhealthy or unnatural to have to live with problems day in and day out. But this is wrong. Life poses problems for each of us and that is completely normal. However, it often happens that someone who believes a normal person has no problems concludes that the lifestyle we are all trapped in is not worth the effort. Most of my patients have developed this negative belief. However, it is not a result of having problems; rather, it arises from a feeling that one is unable to cope with those problems and the people who raise them. While I have feelings like this myself when I've tackled a problem the right way, my whole experience as a psychologist resists the idea that humans are a genetically outdated species who should have lived in an earlier age than anything easier was. What nonsense! I do not accept that we are losers, who do not lead happy everyday lives and cannot adequately cope with the problems that arise in our age of industrialization, urbanization, hygiene and space travel. Based on my professional experience and the naturalistic observation of the thousands of people I have met in my life, I come to a much more reasonable and realistic conclusion: not only is the expectation that life presents us with problems, but also the expectation that everyone will be able to master these problems satisfactorily. Without the innate ability to deal with all kinds of problems, the human species would be extinct. In contrast to the prophecies of doom some prophets of the end of the world, we humans are the most successful, adaptable, intelligent and toughest biological organisms that nature has ever created. If the evidence and the general conclusions of anthropologists, zoologists, and other scientists are correct, a long evolutionary struggle took place on our earth eons ago in which the genetic family of our human and animal ancestors struggled with other species for survival, among them harsh conditions dictated by the ecological forces of nature. Our ancestors not only survived this struggle, but were strengthened by it. We survived and prevailed while other species became extinct or nearly extinct because we are both physiologically and psychologically designed to survive in all conditions. Man is the product of generations of animals who developed the ability to cope with the problems that hard times and the harshest living conditions put on them. With the help of this ability, which no other form of life has in comparable measure, we have not only conquered our earth, our surroundings, but have now begun to work on this our world and the other species that live on it for future generations to obtain. Now what is this inherited problem-solving ability that has brought about the success of the human species? What do we have in common with the extinct animal species and which properties are only reserved for humans? An examination of the conflict behavior of other species, especially vertebrates, shows that the two parties involved fight and the weaker one ultimately takes flight. Both fight and flight are effective means for animals to interact with one another. These forms of conflict resolution seem to be almost automatic, preprogrammed reactions with a high survival value in lower animal species. We humans fight with one another and flee from one another, sometimes by force, sometimes of free will; occasionally we do it openly, but much more often we hide our reactions. However, what sets us apart the most from the other species are two new skills that we have acquired as we evolved: language skills and problem-solving skills. We can communicate with one another and work together to resolve conflicts and problems.

9 tips to distance yourself from other people in a friendly manner

But what can we infer from this for practical everyday life when dealing with potentially annoying fellow human beings? If you want to learn to say “no” more consistently, you should simply take the following 9 tips to heart:

  1. Direct the conversation in the right direction from the start: Do you want to be polite but not talk a lot? Never ask "How are you?" (this is an invitation to a more confidential conversation) but: “What can I do for you?”
  2. Look at the clock. Take a short break in conversation to say with regret: "Oh, it's already so late!"
  3. Switch to the past tense, accompanied by a compliment: "It was very nice to have talked to you."
  4. References to the future: “We should expand this discussion elsewhere” or “An interesting thought that we should pursue when the opportunity arises.”
  5. References to dates: "Unfortunately I have to say goodbye now." Add: "But it was very interesting to talk to you again."
  6. Make it clear that you will continue to think of the person you are speaking to in the future: "I'll email you the necessary information!" Of course, it is important to keep the promise.
  7. A colleague for whom you don't have time now is heading for your office? Demonstrate lack of time: Pretend - preferably with documents under your arm - as if you just wanted to leave the office.
  8. Especially if you don't know people, misunderstandings can easily arise because you accidentally cut sore points - and these can lead to time-consuming discussions. For example, you rave about the walks with your dog. Then the colleague says: “Oh, you are one of these dog owners too? I was recently bitten by a dog. " Now a sure instinct is required so that the harmless conversation does not become a fundamental discussion.
  9. So if you notice that you have made a mistake: Say something soothing, for example: "That always depends on how such a dog is brought up." Then do not insist on your position, but switch to another, positive topic.

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  1. Erik

    Uff. To hear from a professional that you should pretend to avoid conversations and with documents under your arm to pretend you have to leave the office is really more than absurd. Many people do not know how to correctly interpret body language or “symbols” such as looking at the clock and perceive these as impolite.
    As a self-employed person for many years, I know every reason why employees and colleagues want to "steal" your time. They do this unconsciously, because not everyone knows how much others have on their mind.
    My only tip is to be honest: no time for visitors to the office who want to chat over the weekend? Close the door, note on the door “I'm really absorbed in concentrated work right now. Please come back later when my input can wait a little longer. Thank you “- done. Nobody will notice whether you are actually working or surfing the internet during that time.

    Already talked about but still a lot on the list? "Please excuse my direct manner, but I still have a lot to do if I want to finish work on time and I have to say goodbye now. If you like, can we talk later in the canteen? "

    Anyone who feels offended by people who still have work to do at work because they don't want to chat with you has other worries than just such. Anyone who is receptive to it and doesn't know how to get rid of something like this should reconsider their priorities.

    Honesty would last the longest, what others make of it shouldn't be your problem.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Erik, there are different views, but sometimes there is not enough time for long explanations, sometimes these are simply not possible because the other person would not understand them.

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