Hello, my name is John Fallon, and I’m the Humanities department chairperson for my community college in Ohio.

The title of this blog entry is an excerpt from a longer quotation from an office in the North Dakota State Highway Patrol: “We treat people like ladies and gentlemen, not … because they are, but because we are.”

One of my English teachers contacted me today to say how he did not like the “tone” of an email from one of his students complaining about a grade. The teacher wanted to react and, in a sense, discipline the student for the negative tone. I reminded the teacher of the Verbal Defense & Influence principle to let the tone float on by and focus only on the behavior.

There was very little in the student’s email that actually required a response. The best case was to provide the student a professional-sounding one-sentence answer to the student’s embedded question (embedded in the negative tone). It’s okay if the student has the last word (the negative tone, the negative parting shot). The teacher needs to respond professionally and let the student’s negativity float on by.

Mushin at all times, especially during a time of conflict.

Please share with us how has focusing on the behavior of a person instead of their tone has helped you in a conflict.

John Fallon,

Verbal Defense & Influence Certified Instructor