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Gotcha! Doesn’t Work

May 1, 2014

We all have a powerful need to be heard and understood.

We want to connect, and yet we often find it’s way easier said than done.  The next time you’re having or planning to have a difficult conversation, consider replacing ‘Gotcha!’ with the following ABC’s:

1)   Assume positive intentions.

Seriously, have you ever (I mean ever) gotten a good outcome from blaming somebody for anything??

Ex:  “I was surprised when you didn’t call.”  (The next sentence is where you win or lose the round.)

You can follow with “I was waiting for your call—you completely wrecked my night.”   What are the odds that you’re going to get a good outcome??

Or you can say:  “I know you didn’t do it on purpose so I assumed that something important came up.  Please tell me about it.”   The vast majority of us are not creating Machiavellian plots to do each other in.  Assume the best and you’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting it.  Assume the worst and you hugely lower your odds.

2)   Be open and curious.

Pause, breathe, drop your story and open up.

Ex:  “I was surprised when you didn’t call.  Did something happen that got in the way?”

Open up to hearing their truth.  Not yours.  If you get back something like this,  ‘I just never thought of it” and no apology, then that’s another conversation.  But most likely you’ll get something like “Wow!  I’m so sorry.  I meant to, thought of it a bunch of times, but then this, and this, and this happened…I’m really sorry”.

3)   Clarify the difference between a fact and an opinion

We hold many beliefs/ideas/opinions that we treat as facts.  When we treat an opinion or an idea like a fact we move into needing to prove our fact is right.  If we can remember it’s an idea, we have wiggle room to discuss other ideas that might widen our perspective.

Ex:  “I was surprised when you didn’t call.”  That sentence was a fact.  “I think you remembered and you just decided I don’t matter.”  The second sentence was an opinion.

I’ve seen people fall on the sword to prove that their idea about the meaning behind a situation is a fact.   It can get REALLY crazy.

Pause, breathe, drop your story and use your ABC’s:

A – Assume positive intentions

B – Be open and curious

C – Clarify the difference between a fact and an opinion

I’d love to hear if they help!


Much love,


  1. Dick says:

    Robyn, great insight. After 43 years of marriage (to the same woman) I am still discovering better ways of “communicating.” Thank you. I have noticed that I stumble because I lack the “tools” to express myself in a healthier way. I look forward to practicing with these tools. It is said, “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” However, an old dog can learn new tricks (if he is honest, open, and willing). When the dog is ready, the trainer will appear.

  2. KD says:

    Robyn, this is so true. Every time I get a ‘blaming’ attitude towards others everything shuts down. There is no fruitful communication. I even know this and sometimes still fall into it. I had a disagreement with my husband last night and said, “Oh, so it’s OK when you do it?!” That was the wrong move. I should have said, “I don’t understand, this doesn’t make sense to me, you said we shouldn’t do this. Why are you doing it now? Would it have been OK if I did it?” Eventually the conversation worked itself out and we got to the bottom of the issue, but I almost derailed it with my impatience and accusation.

    • Robyn says:

      I love this KD! I love that you caught/noticed it. That seems like the antidote to shutting down…noticing and then coming up with a plan for how to do it differently next time. Thank you! (And I’m glad it eventually worked itself out. 🙂

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