Have you ever noticed others getting away with saying or asking things you would love to, but wouldn’t get away with?

Sometimes it's because they're in a position of authority, but often not.

Every time you notice something like this, it’s a learning opportunity. What it signals is that it’s not the content that’s offensive, but something else that is or isn’t communicated alongside it.

A simple example most of us have probably seen:

1️⃣ “WHY did you do that?”

2️⃣ “Why did YOU do that?”

3️⃣ “Why did you do THAT?”

All of these have different meanings and are varying degrees of offensive.

On the other hand, what if you said, “I’m curious, if you don’t mind me asking, why did you do that?”

Assuming you use the appropriate tone of voice, your get-away-with-it rate should jump dramatically. You’ve expressed curiosity rather than judgment, and you’re knocking on the door with respect rather than intruding and demanding answers. (Please use this responsibly. Also remember that 93% of communication is nonverbal, so if you use this technique and then pound the table, it’s not going to work.)

Word choice and tone are just two of the ways we communicate intention.

And what someone thinks our intentions are can be the difference between saying something and still having your head afterwards, versus not. 🤷‍♀️