Sandpaper Skills: Escape the JADE Trap with Medium Grit
Sandpaper Skills: Escaping the JADE Trap with Medium Grit

Sandpaper Skills: Escape the JADE Trap with Medium Grit

08/12/2022 by Meghan Maloney
Sidestep conversational traps with this powerful communication tool.

In my first post in the series on Sandpaper Skills for Rough Professional Relationships, we discussed some early, easy ways to set clear boundaries about your time and energy. In this next post, I’d like to discuss a tricky little conversational trap that it’s easy to get caught in, if you’re unaware.

To begin, let’s review another example of a confusing professional interaction:

My teammate really wants me to take my lunch break with her every day. She’ll stop by my desk expecting me to drop work and join her as soon as she’s ready to go. If I tell her I can’t step away, or need to take my lunch at a different time, she’ll act confused and ask me why– but doesn’t listen to my reasoning, and keeps asking for more reasons, or claiming she doesn’t understand:

“Hey, ready to go?”

“Sorry, I have to get to the pharmacy today, and the prescriptions aren’t filled yet, so I have to take lunch later.”

“Why can’t you just pick them up after work?”

“Well, I have a lot of errands to get to, and my son needs to get to soccer practice by 4, so I won’t have time then.”

“I don’t understand why you can’t just get them later, what would be so bad about your son being a little late? What’s so important about these prescriptions anyway? Are you sick?”

“They’re pretty important prescriptions for my health.”

“What? What could be wrong with you? That doesn’t make any sense, why would you need them so badly?”

The conversations go on for ages, and it’s gotten to the point where I dread hearing her come up behind me every day at noon. I don’t know how to get her to listen to me.

There’s an acronym for this kind of conversational trap: JADE. 

JADE stands for Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. It’s easy to get caught in the JADE trap by simply trying to be polite. 

To escape, you only need to remember two rules:

  1. “No” is always a complete sentence.
  2. Reasons are for reasonable people.

It’s really that simple! 

You never have to prove to anyone that your needs or wants are acceptable.

Whether or not they agree with you, their opinion is irrelevant.

This situation is where you’ll sometimes run into people who – intentionally or otherwise – confuse “understanding” with “agreeing”. By saying they don’t understand something, they really mean that they don’t agree with it. Misdirecting the conversation into arguing over reasons is a common and surprisingly effective tactic.

A reasonable person will hear one or two explanations from you and accept that your decision has been made. Unreasonable people don’t stop asking you to explain yourself.

When you see the jaws of the JADE trap open, cut your sentences off at “No.” When they ask for a reason, you can say “I’m not going to do that,” or “I don’t want to”, or simply shrug your shoulders. Offer your reasons only to those you trust to reasonably respect them. Reasons are for reasonable people. 

This method completely removes the fuel that keeps the argument running. Because there are no reasons, there is nothing to argue, and the discussion simply ends.

Now that you can spot the JADE trap, it’s much easier to sidestep or slip out of it with your energy and serenity intact. 

The next, and final post of this series will outline one of the most harmful and exhausting situations that can arise in a professional context, and how to (figuratively!) smash it all to bits with a big, gray rock. Stay tuned to learn more about keeping your cool even with your feet to the fire.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you couldn’t escape a circular conversation? What strategies have you used to mitigate or avoid them? Do you think there are other tools to use in these situations? Let me know what you think!  Contact me on Twitter or LinkedIn or reach out to Arkus through our contact us form.