Larsen’s Words that Really Don’t Work: “I’m only one person…”

When she saw the two women enter the classroom, Diane, the instructor, said, “I’m sorry. We’re full.”

One of the women commented, “But there are plenty of extra seats.”

Diane replied, “We’re only allowed to have ten people in this class.  I’m only one person, you know.”

She said it with a pleasant tone of voice. She was actually smiling when she said it – but you could see the two women take instant offense.  One of them tersely responded with, “Well, you certainly know how to make someone feel welcome.” With that, they turned and walked out.

See, here’s the thing.  They KNEW Diane was only one person. That was quite obvious.  Consequently, the statement could have been (and apparently was) interpreted as demeaning.

How could she have responded instead?  How about:

“That’s true – there are some extra seats. And you have no idea how much I wish I could just say, ‘come on in!’ The situation is that for one facilitator, the administration has established the cut-off at ten students.  I have promised to honor that guideline.  I am truly very sorry.”

Would that have made the ladies HAPPY to leave?  Probably not.  But it would have gone a long way toward reducing their frustration.

By the way, have you ever heard a customer service provider use this phrase when you are standing in line with several other people asking for help?  Yes. And how does that make you feel?

From your motivational speaker, Linda Larsen, continually rooting out those Words that Don’t Work



Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. Linda, so true, so true. There is power in our words, and we must choose them carefully. Your example is a beautiful illustration of how providing information, rather than justifying behavior could help create understanding. But you know, “I’m only one person” saying…. :-).

  2. I absolutely cringe when I hear that kind of retort!  You are so right on in explaining another way to handle the situation where you have to give news they don’t want to hear.  That’s what makes you such a top notch motivational speaker on Communication!

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