Getting Less Difficult--The Words, Ma'am, Just the Words 272 What to replace them with? Let's do the first one. The problem with this is the "why in the world" part. It implies the other person is stupid or nuts or something. One way of making it better is to say, "Why would you say that?" But that is still intimidating to at least some people. So here's an even better one. "I might be missing something here because I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Could you explain a bit more for me?" How about the second one? Instead of "what makes you think that ...?" you can soften it this way: "I'm sure you have some good reasons to take that position. It would really help me if you could tell me what they are so I can understand better." This Won't Work! If someone says something dumb or odd, blaming them for it isn't likely to clarify what they meant or help them understand why it was dumb. Neither is trying to intimidate them or humiliate them. See the difference? We're going to get the same information by being cooperative sounding. In fact,