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Episode 5: Articulation - say what you mean and mean what you say

Updated: Jan 4, 2022


Happy New Year from Eggshells! We’re sailing into 2022 with a continued commitment to debunking disagreement myths and assuaging woes around arguments. This week, our Eggshells podcast episode discusses something many of you were very keen to hear about – how to articulate yourself when you're disagreeing.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the words in a disagreement, even if normally you’re good with them. Or maybe you find a lot of words, but in the moment they tumble out in a big confusing mess, while your Very Important Point ends up lost at sea somewhere.

That's what we're talking about in today’s episode: how to find the words in a difficult conversation and mostly, why finding them matters at all. Lizzie and Hannah have different relationships to articulation, and they explore how they can help each other out.

“No, but you can..."
That really brief sentence is an awfully quick amount of time to ask someone to change their mind about such a big decision.”

The quote above is from Alba Woolard, a communication trainer whose bio you can find on our People of Eggshells page. A key component of disagreeing effectively, Alba says, is space: giving the person whose mind you’re trying to change, space to recalibrate their opinion.

Giving my conversational disagreement partner space is something that doesn’t come naturally to me, and that I have to do very consciously. Let me give you an example. Say I am talking with a family member about abortion. Say they are articulating themselves on the topic for the first time in a while, and as they do so I can see flaws in their logic. Am I chomping at the bit to correct them? Yes. Is that useful? Alba would say no. She would say it’s vital that I engage the “Yes and” technique.

"Yes and" is what it says on the tin.

"Yes" means that when someone speaks, you acknowledge what they have said: “Yes, that is a view I have heard expressed” or, “Yes I can understand what you’re saying” – or even, “Yes, now before I respond let me check I’ve heard you correctly – you believe…” Crucially, it doesn't have to mean you agree with them.

“And” then allows you to respond with your thoughts, while incorporating their point of view. To stick with the topic of abortion, which I referenced above: "Yes, so you believe xxx, which I have heard expressed before, and what’s interesting is that there’s evidence that xxx is actually true for some people who’ve actually had abortions.”

In the case of disagreements, "and" is often a thinly disguised "but". BUT (or, AND) the important thing is that you're responding directly to what your conversation partner has expressed, rather than just with what you want to say. This means they feel heard, and your considered response gives them space to consider a change of mind.

Listen to the episode on our Podcast page to understand more about "Yes and" as well as other techniques that are useful for having difficult conversations.

NB in 2022, we'll be releasing episodes fortnightly. See you in two weeks!


Meet Alba Woolard

For this episode we spoke with Alba Woolard, a wonderful human being teaching difficult conversations in medical settings. Alba deals with the hardest conversations there are - notably, organ donation discussions with next of kin after an unexpected death. She told us about how she and her colleagues use repetition and reflection to ensure the person they're speaking with feels heard, citing that unless someone feels they are being understood, the conversation has the potential to turn fiery.

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