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Ombuds Office Resource Guide

Try Saying it This Way ...

Facing a difficult conversation with someone?

Some of these phrases might help you get started (or get unstuck). Then be sure to really LISTEN to their answers.

  • “Do you have a few minutes?” [continue with one of the following:]
    • “I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to share with you.”
    • “Something has been bothering me and it would help if we could talk about it.”
    • “I’d like to get your perspective on something.”
  • “Let me share my impression of the situation, first, and then I’d really like to hear your perspective.”
  • “The most important thing, from my perspective, is …..”
  • “Do you have any questions for me about how I’m seeing this?”
  • “How are you feeling about all of this/ What are your thoughts/What is your perspective on this situation?”
  • “What’s the most important thing for you regarding this issue?”
  • “From my perspective, this is what I’m hearing, and perceiving: [insert your concerns]. But is that the message you’re trying to send?”
  • Help me understand [1]…” [continue with one of the following:]
    • “if I’m missing something/what I’m missing.”
    • “what actions of mine had a [good/bad] impact on you [or on this situation].”
    • “what I did that led to your reaction.”
    • “why you believe this is my fault/problem.”
    • “if you think there are things I need to do to help improve this situation.”
    • “what information you might have that I’m not aware of.”
    • “where our viewpoints on this issue have gone in different directions.”
    • “how we can get back on the same page.”
  • Tell me more about why this is important to you.[2]
  • “Do you see a way forward that would meet both of our needs: both [X] and [Y]?”
  • “What do you think about this idea?”
  • “Do you think it might help if we found someone who could help facilitate our efforts to resolve this?”
  • “Would it help if we both took a little time to reconsider the situation, and then met again later on to discuss it?”
  • “I would like to keep exploring this situation … [continue with one of the following:]
    • “but it feels like maybe we should take a break so we can each process all this information”
    • “do you have time now, or would it be better if we continued this at another time?”
  • “Thanks for meeting with me about this. I’m glad we were able to work this out together. Let’s follow-up with each other in [two weeks/thirty days/six months] to make sure we’re still on track with this issue.”

  • [1] “Help me understand” is a wonderful phrase to use in conflict: it’s non-threatening, and it gently requests people to help improve the situation.
  • [2] “Tell me more” is another great phrase/inquiry that conveys respect for the other person’s viewpoint and is non-threatening.