Telling someone they’re wrong can be a daunting task, especially if it’s in a work situation. That’s why at work, you very rarely hear someone flat out say, “You’re wrong.” On the one hand you don’t want to insult whomever you’re speaking to because, at the very least, you have to work with them. They could even be your boss or your client. On the other hand, you need to get them to understand that they are incorrect else it could cause major problems down the line. While this seems to be a “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t” situation, there are ways to accomplish both goals. All it requires is the proper phrasing.
With that in mind, here are three phrases I’ve used to tell someone they’re wrong without actually having to say it:
“I see your point, however I think…” – The important part of this phrase is “I see your point.” Acknowledging the other person’s point of view is critical in getting them to listen to you. Even if you don’t actually see their point, you need to make them feel like you do. Once you get past that, they’ll be much more receptive to what you have to say.
“Hmm. What if we…” – This time, the “Hmm” is what I use to show I’m giving their idea serious thought. It may sound silly, but a simple verbal indication such as this can go a long way. Now that you’ve shown you are serious about their idea, you can hit them with yours using the “What if we…” line. By using “we”, you’re including them in the solution. By using “if”, you’re making a suggestion and not a direct order.
“The way I’m looking at it…” – Being able to explain the reasons behind your point of view is essential to this kind of conversation. The strength of this particular phrase is that it allows you to explain your reasoning before you hit them with your idea. For example, you could say: “The way I’m looking at it, we don’t have enough trucks to make all of the deliveries by next week. What if we prioritize the deliveries and decide which ones are absolutely necessary?” This way, you have them thinking your solution out with you. They will be much more likely to go along with your idea if they come to the conclusions themselves.
These are just three of the phrases you can use. There are many more out there, it just depends on your situation. Also, you can combine some of these phrases (as shown in the last example with the “What if we…”) to fit where you need them. When it comes down to it, there’s always a way to tell someone they’re wrong. Sometimes it just takes a little more thought to do so.