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Are You Too Sensitive?

Choose Your Words Wisely

Keep these comebacks in your arsenal, for when you can't resist responding to a zinger.

"Excuse me?" Asking someone to repeat a thoughtless comment is a graceful way to make them think twice about what they just said — and may help you catch their meaning in case it's you who misunderstood.

"I wonder why you would say that." This toned-down version of "What the heck was that supposed to mean?" challenges the person to reflect on his motives.

"Can you elaborate on what you said?" Asking people to spell out their opinion can prevent miscommunication and clear the air.

"Ouch! That hurts my feelings." This lets someone know you've taken a comment personally, and lets her retract, amend, or apologize.

When you're tempted to beat yourself up for being too sensitive this season, remember that it's a strength, too. "When there are tensions that make everyone at the holiday party squirm," says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., an anthropologist and author of Why We Love, "often, it's the sensitive people who save the day by saying exactly the right thing."


Originally published on October 31, 2007


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