A word of explanation is probably in order.
I (Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.) graduated from three different colleges with graduate degrees and I can honestly say that the story I am about to relate only occurred once in all of my educational experience! However, it is the point of this Tip.
One day a student in one of my classes decided that he would challenge our professor. Since we all know that it is acceptable to question what we are being taught, the fact that this student challenged the professor was not the issue. It was the attitude with which he did it. He had a sharp tone to his voice and was rude and disrespectful. He went to great lengths to discredit the professor’s viewpoint and to explain his own. It was clear that he wanted the professor (and the rest of the class) to know just how smart he was and that his point of view was right.
What was so astonishing was that this particular professor had a reputation for being the “professor’s professor.” The other instructors looked to him when they had a question for which they had no answer. So, for this professor to be so disrespected in the classroom by this student – well, it left us speechless!
The professor let him “mouth” on and on until he finished. When the student finally stopped, thinking that he had put the professor in his place, he asked him a question that was beyond anyone’s ability to answer. The professor simply said, “No,” paused and then said, “Next question.”
Laughter broke out in the classroom because it was such an unusual experience. The professor did not argue with the student; he did not lower himself to the student’s disrespectful level; he did not argue with the student. He just answered the young man’s long diatribe with one word: “No.” And, then he went on with answering other students’ questions, often in great detail. It was just to that one rude student that he gave a brief, specific and pointed answer.
The reason I will never forget that is because the response was so appropriate. It was so unnecessary for the student to act the way he did toward the professor. Yet, the professor did not get all caught up in the student’s “stuff.” He just remained calm and put the student in his place with one short, specific answer. No other verbiage was needed. He answered everything in that one word.
I continue to learn that I talk too much. I have too much to say about everything. Hopefully, at least, I do it with a good attitude and not with a disrespectful or know-it-all attitude. The intention of my over talking is to be clear and helpful. But, I can honestly say there are many, many times that I have kept my mouth shut because I realized that sometimes a one word answer is all that is required.
The next time you feel as though someone is being verbally abusive or trying to win an argument with you, maybe just a simple yes or no is all you need to say. Sometimes the worst thing we can do is mirror the same behavior when someone else is going on and on. My father used to say to me, “The more you stir a stink, the worse it smells!” That is what I am trying to say in a nutshell. Quit stirring the stink and just let a quick, brief, specific answer settle what you have to say.
It was a shocking moment in the classroom that day, but a very defining moment in my life. I am grateful for that experience! It has helped me to keep a tighter reign on what I say because I often realize that the more said, the worse it gets.
This is a Tip that you will want to save for the appropriate occasion. It is not one that you will use all the time, but it is one that is both powerful and helpful!
Have a great week!
Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.
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