Two experiences this weekend support something I have been teaching for more than 30 years.
Saturday, I walked up to the deli counter and asked the young woman for a quarter pound of imported provolone. She responded, "We don't have impourded, but we have some from Italy." I said that would be fine. Then she grumbled to a co-worker that this guy wanted "impourded" provolone and he explained that the Italian provolone was imported. Then she held up the slices and said, "It's only 5 slices - that won't go very far!" I explained that it was perfect for a sandwich.
I was able to laugh that one off - it was actually funny - but I didn't think the second one was very funny.
The AAU 13U baseball team was ahead 4-1 when the assistant coach approached us. Our son had just finished pitching his fourth strong inning so we expected to hear, "He's pitching a great game!", but instead he whined that our son needed to develop better command of his curve ball (that I wouldn't let him throw prior to this year because we were trying to protect his arm).
I nicely reminded the coach that our son had tried out for the team as a catcher, not a pitcher, and that the coaches liked his arm so much they told him he would pitch - a lot.
The assistant coach growled, "If he doesn't want to pitch, I'll take him off the mound right now!!!"
Huh? If he doesn't want to pitch? He loves to pitch! Where did that sarcastic comment come from? And why was he so nasty about it?
Neither of these two individuals intended to be nasty, or even mean-spirited, but both of them communicated their replies in such a way that they came out quite nasty.
The deli lady could have said, "Will provolone from Italy be acceptable?"
And the coach could have said, "I'm going to help Michael with the command of the curveball he's been working on."
You can say almost anything, to anyone, at any time, without offending them, if you say it nicely, softly, kindly, and sincerely. You can't get away with saying anything, ever, even when your intentions are good, if you sound arrogant, abrasive, offensive, snarly, defensive, loud or combative.
Whether you are trying to convince a prospect, customer or salesperson, make sure you emphasize the how over the what and your message has a much better chance of being accepted in the spirit you intended.
Read more about how you can stop worrying about the words you use.