The most spectacular building in Chicago, a city of spectacular buildings, is 401 North Wabash Avenue.  But, as I was reminded when I was in the Windy City recently to attend the INADR International Mediation Competition, it only takes one word to spoil a message.  And when I was coaching the student mediators, I found myself reminding them of some simple linguistic lessons for conflict resolution:

  •  Don't begin a sentence with "but" unless you really need to say it.  Try using "and" to signal that you want to build on what has been said rather than dismiss it.  Not only does it sound more positive, but there's a better chance you'll be listened to
  •  Rather than ask what someone "wants", or what their "position" is, try asking what's important to them or, even better, what they suggest. 
  • Or combine these two thoughts - if you really can’t do something, offer an alternative solution. Instead of saying what you can’t do, say what you can do. So, for example, instead of saying “I can’t stay late tonight,” say “I could come in early tomorrow morning. Will that work?”

And of course remember that words mean different things to different people, even the T word.