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Tip: Sometimes be brief, specific and to the point – it gets people’s attention!

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Tip: Sometimes be brief, specific and to the point – it gets people’s


P.S. – A word of explanation is probably in order.

I graduated from 5 different colleges with 3 of those being graduate degrees and I can honestly say that the story I am about to relate to you only occurred once in all of my educational experience! However, it is the point of this Tip. I will never forget the day it happened!

One day a student in one of my classes decided that he would challenge our professor. Since we all know that it is acceptable to question what we are being taught, the fact that this student challenged the professor was not the issue. It was the attitude in which he did it. He had a sharp tone to his voice and was rude and disrespectful. He went to great lengths to discredit the professor’s viewpoint and to explain his own. It was clear that he wanted the professor (and the rest of the class) to know just how smart he was and that his point of view was totally right.

What was so astonishing was that this particular professor had a reputation for being the “professor’s professor.” The other instructors looked to him when they had a question for which they had no answer. So, for this professor to be so disrespected in the classroom by this student – well, it left us speechless!

The professor let him “mouth” on and on until he finished. When the student, who thought he was brilliant, finally stopped, thinking that he had put the professor in his place, he asked the professor if he agreed with his comments and his point of view. The professor simply said, “No,” paused and then said, “Next question.”

Laughter broke out in the classroom because it was such an unusual experience. The professor did not argue with the student; he did not lower himself to the student’s disrespectful level; he did not argue with the student. He just answered the young man’s long diatribe with one word: “No.” It was as though the professor did not feel obligated to answer the student’s question and get “sucked” into an argument. And, then he went on with answering other students’ questions, often in great detail. It was just to that one rude student that he gave a brief, specific and pointed answer.

The reason I will never forget that is because the response was so appropriate. It was so unnecessary for the student to act the way he did toward the professor. Yet, the professor did not get all caught up in the student’s “stuff.” He just remained calm and put the student in his place with one short, specific answer. No other verbiage was needed. He answered everything in that one word. Word spread around campus quickly about what happened. Those of us in the class started passing each other in the hallway saying, “No” to each other, then we started laughing!

I continue to learn that I talk too much. I have too much to say about everything. Hopefully, at least, I do it with a good attitude and not with a disrespectful or know-it-all attitude. The intention of my “over talking” is to be clear and helpful. But, I can honestly say there are many, many times that I have kept my mouth shut because I realized that sometimes a one-word answer is all that is required.

The next time you feel as though someone is being verbally abusive or trying to win an argument with you, maybe just a simple “yes” or “no” is all you need to say. Sometimes the worst thing we can do is mirror the same behavior back to someone when they are going on and on. My father used to say to me, “The more you stir a stink, the worse it smells!” That is what I am trying to say in a nutshell. Quit stirring the stink and just let a quick, brief, specific answer settles what you have to say.

It was a shocking moment in the classroom that day, but a very defining moment in my life. I am grateful for that experience! It has helped me to keep a tighter reign on what I say and the way I say it because I often realize that the more said, the worse it gets.

This is a Tip that you will want to save for the appropriate occasion. It is not one that you will use all the time, but it is one that is both powerful and helpful at just the right occasion!

Have a great week! God bless you!

Dr. Robert A. Rohm

Robert Rohm

Top selling author and speaker, Robert Rohm Ph.D. is founder of Personality Insights Inc. and The Robert Rohm Co. As you will see, Dr. Rohm specializes in helping people better understand themselves and others.

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