As caregivers, we communicate regularly with diverse personnel — doctors, lawyers, bankers, insurers, Medicare representatives, adult day care staff, nursing administrators, and more. Sometimes we wish the conversations went more smoothly.
Need a good “comeback” while in a challenging conversation?
How many times have you finished an interaction and wished it went differently?
Although the following five scenarios have more to do with U.S. – French and English relations over the years, The Caregiver’s Voice shares these quick-thinking “comebacks” as seeds of inspiration for your own.
President John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk’s Comeback to France’s de Gaulle
JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early ’60s when de Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO. De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.
Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”
De Gaulle did not respond.
Colin Powell’s Comeback to England’s Archbishop of Canterbury
When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.
He answered, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”
A Boeing Engineer’s Comeback to a French Engineer
There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers returned to the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt by Bush? He sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?”
A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly, “Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”
A U.S. Navy Admiral’s Comeback to a French Admiral
A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers including other personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?”
Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.”
Eighty-three year old, Robert Whiting’s Comeback to a Customs Officer
Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.
At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.
“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”
The elder American replied, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”
“Impossible! Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!”
The American gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Quietly, he explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.”
The next time you find yourself in a challenging conversation, may these five interactions be the seeds you place in your conversational soil in order to fertilize your own comeback. With practice, you will find your responses more in line with what you really mean to say.
Thank you to Scott Atkinson for forwarding these five inspirational conversations.
Thank you to the author who assembled these. As with many anonymously forwarded items via the Internet, The Caregiver’s Voice would love to give credit to the person who can prove authorship.
Brenda Avadian, MA