5 Ways to Sound Helpful Not Patronizing | #PeopleSkills #Communication

Helpful can sound patronizing when said in the wrong way or at the wrong time.

Whether you are a leader, manager, teammate, friend, or family member, people skills timing and tone of voice improve your image, interactions and results. This is especially true when you sound helpful instead of patronizing. Here’s how to do it.

Sound Helpful Not Patronizing - Image from Istock.

Image licensed from Istock.com.

As long as the words are not clearly hurtful, we sound helpful not patronizing when we:

  1. Learn what they think or feel instead of presuming to know. “How do you feel?” sounds helpful. “I’m sure you feel/think …” sounds patronizing.

  2. Check our motives before we speak. Are we offering help because we have lost patience with them or how they work? That motive shows in our words and tone of voice. It can sound patronizing vs. helpful. This is especially true when we have had previous disagreements.

  3. Ask permission to help before we give advice or a helping hand — regardless of our motives. Unsolicited help can seem patronizing and demeaning. If we must jump in without asking, it is best to first say the critical reason why.

  4. Be helpful in a way that the other person will value. Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people the way they want to be treated.

    An amiable personality type (focusing on emotions) can sound patronizing to a results-oriented driver.

    The get-it-done driver type can sound patronizing to an analytic who wants all the details.

    The analytic type can sound patronizing and preachy to those who want the main point first.

    The expressive type risks patronizing others when they dwell on one subject for too long.

  5. And when we …

  6. Use focused words instead of minimizing words. For example, primarily is a focused word whereas just and only are minimizing words. “Are you just concerned about the deadline?” can minimize someone’s perspective and sound dismissive, judgmental, and patronizing. “Are you primarily concerned about the deadline?” can fuel a valuable discussion.

It’s not purely what we say that matters. It’s also how and when we say it! When we adapt, we succeed. Versatility takes us further than one approach for everyone and every situation.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
GPS Your Brain to Work With Any Personality Type.
Avoid 8 Common Causes of People Skills Mistakes

©2011-2024 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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10 Responses to “5 Ways to Sound Helpful Not Patronizing | #PeopleSkills #Communication”

  1. Tad Jackson says:

    Well done again, Kate! And what great timing, too, as I start with another student/family this morning with my school skills and social skills tutoring service. In other words, there’s a whole lot going on in this family concerning this one child and I have to be extremely careful with the words I use … and when I say them! Keep up the great counsel!


  2. MG says:

    Thiis is great information. So many people attempt to be helpful, but it sometimes comes off the wrrong way.

  3. MG says:

    Thiis is great information.

    So many people attempt to be helpful, but it sometimes comes off the wrrong way.

  4. Love it, when I bring this up-language many times I get oh I am not that picky. Chuckle, guess that was me receiving a diminishing comment. Love to hear how you find ways to create an environment where you can discuss the power of words and language so that the listeners are truly absorbing.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Michele,
      I find that it’s easier to bring the topic up in a professional/business setting perhaps because there are common $$ goals to achieve. In personal life, it can be tougher.

      I am heartened by your comment and interest in this subject. Truly appreciated!

  5. AprilS says:

    This isn’t only applicable to customer service, but life as a whole. Tone is everything and the little things you say can really damage a conversation if you aren’t careful. Seems like it all comes down to not making assumptions and instead asking the person what they want, how they feel.

    Great post!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks April for visit, time, and comment. Asking instead of telling wins the day. It’s a dialogue for sure!

      Warmest regards for stopping by and hope you will comment on any post that inspires you.

  6. Alli says:

    This great, Kate, but if I were you… just kidding. Amazing how just a small change in our words can significantly change how they land. Will share!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      It truly makes a big difference Alli. I keep a log of these differences as I see/hear them and am already accumulating the list for the follow-up post! Would love any additions you come across as well.

      Many thanks,

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