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12 Aug

Personal and Professional Communication Skills: How NOT to start a conversation–especially with a man

4 Little Words–that almost never lead to anything good!

Personal and Professional communication Skills--Opening Lines Matter!
Personal and Professional communication Skills–Opening Lines Matter!


The lack of personal and professional communication skills has ruined many a conversation before it’s even begun.

Would you like to know how many of us ruin a conversation (especially when we are speaking to a man) with just four words?  Then keep reading, please.

WE NEED TO TALK– This is one of the most self-defeating ways to begin a conversation, especially if that conversation is with a man.  Below is a brief excerpt from my book “Say This Not That!” available through Amazon.


If your intention is to close down the lines of communication, the phrase, “We need to talk,” is one of the best ways to do it.

People–especially men–have connected so much negativity to this phrase that most of us literally have a physical reaction when we hear it. This phrase causes a strong bio-chemical reaction in the listener, and the lines of communication promptly shut down. Again, this has to do mostly with the association we’ve made with this phrase. I mean, no one in the history of the universe has ever said, “Honey, we need to talk. I just bought you a brand new car!” Never. It doesn’t happen. We all know what “We need to talk” leads to, and it’s not pretty.


When we need to have one of “those little talks” with someone, the first goal we should have is to open the lines of communication so the person is ready to receive the message that we intend to convey. The easiest way to do that is to use this simple 3-step process:

Step 1: Use the person’s name.
Step 2: Make the sentence short.
Step 3: Use “I” language. (Say something about you first–not the other person’s behavior.)

These three steps can be easily summarized and implemented using two different lead-in lines (“starter” phrases that help you get the words out):
Lead-in Line #1: “_____, I need your help.”
Lead-in Line #2: “_____, I’m concerned,” or “_____, I’m frustrated,” or “_____, I’m troubled.”

Furthermore, having a plan, and “scripting” out the first sentence of “those little talks” will help boost your confidence and effectiveness. If you start out weakly, the listener pays no attention to you; if you start off too aggressively, the lines of communication shut down. Using the 3-step process or one of the lead-in lines above will help ensure that you come off neither aggressive nor passive–but rather perfectly assertive.

For example, notice the difference:

SAY THIS–“John, I need your help.”
NOT THAT–“John, we need to talk.”

SAY THIS–“John, I’m concerned and could really use your help.”
NOT THAT–“John, you need to start carrying your weight around here.”

SAY THIS–“John, I’m troubled and I need your help.”
NOT THAT–“Listen John, we need to talk; you really messed up.”

Remember that the purpose of the lead-in to “the talk” is to open the lines of communication and get the person’s buy-in to your message. Our ego sometimes wants the other person to squirm at the beginning of the conversation. While this might temporarily feed our ego, it’s not the effective thing to do. If the other person is engaging in self-talk because of his concern about what’s coming—he will be listening to himself—not to you.

For example, notice the difference:

SAY THIS–“John, I’m concerned; we need to tackle a few problems.”
NOT THAT–“John, close the door and sit down.”

Knowing the right words with which to begin a conversation can make all the difference in terms of effectiveness.  Wouldn’t you agree?

To join Dan’s training group: click here!

Do you want to learn more about communication training that can help you become a more powerful, assertive, direct communicator? Communication that can change your life?  Go to Dan’s store and check out his audios and videos, along with his 50-lesson comprehensive communication training course.

Does your office need a communication trainer–a world-renowned expert trainer in customer service– who can help you create a healthy, safe office environment? Would you like training in handling negativity; teams and leadership; and creating a respectful, professional work-place? Then go to and request a quote from Dan and his team. 


Dan O’Connor specializes in delivering strategic verbal patterns, danger phrases, power phrases, lead-in lines, closing lines, freestyle scripts, and other specific tactics that participants can immediately use to achieve instant results both at work and at home.

Thousands of individuals listen each day to Dan’s online podcasts and watch his videos, and the nations leading businesses have had Dan come onsite to help with creating healthier relationships, a more positive work environment, a superior customer service force, and an atmosphere that promotes and values all of the people ­­all of the time.

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