Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to ask someone a question but were afraid to sound rude? It’s common to leave the wrong impressions when we are talking to other people, especially if it involves an accusation tone.
Even when you are extremely careful with your words, it’s still possible that the other person is going to take it in the wrong way. So how can you ask a question without accusing them?
Make sure to breathe calmly, express how their behavior is affecting you, keep an open body language, use open questions, and be solution-focused.
Communication is the process of exchanging words, right? When you need to ask someone something that you think they might have done, it’s easy to be misunderstood, which can lead to a very uncomfortable situation.
When someone feels like it’s been accused of something the communication can become unreasonable, it can become irrational even, which can lead to misunderstands, overreactions, and ultimately a terrible place to be in any type of relationship.
So, learning how to maintain excellent communication is the key. When we choose the right way to approach the conversation and raise some questions without an accusation tone, it’s not only helpful to that particular conversation but also helps to protect the future of the relationship between you and that person.
How to improve your communication?
Communication is not only made by the words you speak, in fact, but communication is also composted by your tone of voice and body and facial expressions. The way you express your feelings is also fundamental for the order person to realize why you are asking those questions.
Down below are a few examples of how you can approach a conversation where you have to question someone without sounding like an accusation.
Surprisingly enough, most of us breathe quite incorrectly during situations that can cause some stress. Our brain needs enough oxygen to function at its best, so when we are in a more distressing situation, it’s natural for our brain to release stress hormones.
Our breathing will become faster and shallow and without enough air. Most likely, your concentration level will be decreased, which can make us slightly less rational.
So, before you approach someone with a question that can incriminate them somehow, it’s crucial to breathe correctly during a conversation, or you might leave the impression that you are accusing them, and that will only make things worse. You must start the conversation with a clear mind and a steady heartbeat.
So, take deep breaths through your mouth, relax the tongue and concentrate on the breath going into your lungs. Use your yoga experience if possible.
2. Express your feelings
Instead of accusing them of something that you might think that they have done, just express how their behavior is affecting you. Use your words wisely but try to use this technique without an accusation tone, as we are trying to make the other person understand how we are truly feeling.
If you use your accusation tone, this might come across as you are blaming them, rather than trying to understand what happened. Explain why you are asking and how that makes you feel.
Of course, not all situations will necessarily have your feelings as an example, so just letting them know the reason why you are asking is enough.
3. Your tone of voice
Have you ever heard the expression “is not what you say but how you say it”?
Well, you can be saying one thing that sounds pretty apologetic in your head, but the way you are saying, it makes it sound like an accusation. That’s because our brain can identify tones of voice.
There’s a study by Albert Mehrabian that concluded that communication is 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal, he then went as far as breaking down the non-verbal components and found that 55% is from expressional expressions, gestures, and our posture in general, and 38% is from tones of voice.
So based on his study, we can see that our communication is massively affected by our expression, gestures, and tone of voice, so it’s not what you are saying but how you say it.
4. Gestures and Facial Expressions
We covered how we say things, the tone that we say those things, and the importance of breathing, which will help us to maintain our posture and stress levels. So, there’s only one more thing that I would like to add, and that’s expressions.
We express ourselves not only by what we say but how we present ourselves to others while we are saying it.
During any type of communication, we should be aware of how we posture ourselves, just to make sure that what we are saying doesn’t get twisted in other people’s eyes.
So, let me ask you this, have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you happened to get more irritated by just their behavior? Perhaps they walked away and let you talk by yourself? Did that help anything? Did you get any less frustrated?
During an argument, there are some rules that we should obey to not make matters worse:
- Do not cross your arms. When you cross your arms, you give the feeling that you are not open to others, so it will help if you keep your arms down.
- Do not point fingers. Pointing fingers resemble an accusation, so it’s a big no during a conversation that you are avoiding to sound like you are accusing them.
- Don’t roll your eyes. This will give the sense that you don’t really care about the other person’s point of view and that can lead to a misunderstanding.
- Try to keep your hands as low as you possibly can. A relaxed posture will help you to deal with the situation in a more positive way.
- Don’t walk away. I do agree to some extent that getting out of the situation can sometimes help to cool things down (in that case it might be your only option), but generally speaking, turning your back can do more harm than good. You want to patch things up, and walking away shows that you are not interested in resolving situations. Leaving the other person distressed might make them feel abandoned and misunderstood. If you leave them in that note, no matter for how long you do, it will impact massively in how you show you care, so instead use all the other techniques above or go out for a walk together if possible, the fresh air will help you to see things a little clearer.
5. Focus on the solution
And last but not least, find a solution.
Remember that for every problem, there’s always a solution, and sometimes we get so tied up with the problem itself that we forget to think of a solution.
So instead of keeping an argument that perhaps will create more and unnecessary issues, focus on the answer. Very often, we need to learn how to compromise when the two sides have different opinions.
Trying to see the situation from the other one’s eyes helps to better understand their reason and get to a consensus. You are asking a question that may make the other person uncomfortable, so if you can put yourself in their position and figure out why they might have done it, you will start the conversation with an open mind and with a different perspective.
Of course, this is not always possible. Still, if you are trying to avoid sounding like an accusation, then it’s better to approach the conversation with all the possible scenarios first.
How can you ask a question without sounding like an accusation?
There are ways to ask someone a question without sounding like an accusation.
Here are a few examples of how you can ensure that your question does not have an accusation tone. There are two ways to ask questions if you use a closed-ended question, then the answer is more likely to be a “yes” or “no”, but if you choose to use open-ended questions then you give room for the person to elaborate the answer.
Because you are trying to sound like an accusation, the best option is to use open-ended questions.
For example, instead of asking a closed-ended question, try to use open questions like:
“What happened to my…?”
“Where is my…?”
“Who took the…?”
And you can follow those questions with a…
“Do you know who…?”
“Have you seen what…?”
“I was wondering if you know…?”
The main thing to remember is to never ask directly if that person did what you are asking. If you ask a vaguely simple question, it’s more likely to sound less of an accusation and more like a completely harmless question that will not directly accuse that person in any way such as “What’s your problem?”.
If you approach a situation like this, then perhaps you will even find the answer to your question without the need to accuse anyone.
It’s easy to get emotional and accuse other people unintentionally, no matter the situation, your emotions play a significant role in the way you are communicating with others. Hence, it’s quite easy to get caught with an overwhelming feeling of anger or frustration, but if you allow your emotions to take over, then it’s going to sound like an accusation.
Before you decide to approach that person, try to make yourself calm and look at the situation with an open mind. You might need the answer to your question, but raising false accusations can cost you relations, no matter if it is a friendship, business, or romantic relationship.
Try to give the other person time to explain before you jump to any conclusions. Communication is a powerful tool, and you are the one who decides how to use it.
If you are still unsure, try rephrasing the question so that it no longer sounds like a question.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.