Skip to content

No. 2 – What Can You Say, When You Don’t Know What to Say?

October 17, 2010

Suppose you are confronted with the statement, “I don’t want any nuclear dumps poisoning my water and killing my children!” As a health physicist, you attempt to explain that radioactive waste disposal sites can be operated safely. The person then exclaims, “you work for the nuclear industry and you are paid to cover up for them. You just want to cram this dump down our throats. You think you can do anything you want, because you are so smart. You don’t really care because you don’t have to live here. Why should I believe anything you say?”

When you are confronted in this manner, you may find your stomach knotting up and suddenly you realize there are greater risks to deal with than radiation. How do you respond when challenged about your motives, your integrity, your honesty, your ethics, your competence, and your sense of caring? How do you avoid getting defensive when everything your life stands for, and your most cherished values, are challenged? There are five ways you can respond non-defensively and keep the door open for a continuing dialogue.

  1. You can state your perceptions of the other person’s feelings. “You are worried about the effects of a radioactive disposal site on your family and you are concerned that I may be a paid spokesman for the nuclear industry and therefore not telling you the truth.”
  2. You can state your own feelings. “I hear the concerns you are sharing I am also concerned about the safety of radioactive waste disposal sites, and I feel badly that you would doubt my efforts to provide a helpful response to your questions.”
  3. You can describe the situation briefly. “You do not like the idea of a radioactive waste disposal site in this area and you have doubts about what I am telling you.”
  4. You can state what you would like. “I would like to hear all of the your concerns and I would like to answer your questions the best that I can as a professional in radiation protection.”
  5. You can ask the other person what they would like? “I hear your concerns, how can I be most helpful for you in this situation?”

The use of any of these responses is intended to help you to unhook from your own defensive feelings. At the same time, your response does not challenge, threaten, or make the other person wrong. Your response invites a continuation of the dialogue for mutual benefits.

Next week we will explore how to hear and effectively respond to feelings.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment or Post a Question

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: