When you think someone is handing you a bunch of baloney, or worse yet, plagiarizing your hard work, or even worse yet, using up all the air time in a meeting, how do you face them head on without losing your cool?

Most of us will shy away from talking tough and talking straight. That's why texting and e-mails are used before we ever face someone, either in person, or next best, on the phone.

Why's it so hard to discuss sensitive subjects and offer constructive criticism?

Think back to your childhood.

Were you free to speak up at home? If you disagreed did you get a high-five bravo, or were you sent to your room? Did your parents sit down and discuss fragile situations or simply tell you what was expected and say "no back talk"?

Sadly, there are often very few positive rules for talking about what is really going on under the tip of the iceberg. And because of that there is a tendency to get tongue-tied with bosses (like parents) and co-workers (like siblings).

Time, lots of time, gets wasted by ignoring or denying the stress and tension of unsaid issues. And, if someone does shout it out, rarely does someone else challenge their point of view. Often the response is "Whatever" or silence with eyes rolling that silently say "Bulls**t".

Here is great advice to shortcut the noise and hold someone who is rattling your cage to stop the bad behavior.

And then use this, the shortest and most powerful question of only four words in the world:

"What is your intention?"

That's it! Then you must, simply must, be quiet. Let the silence do the work. Stay steady and silent.

This is the best accountability question to get someone to respond and not just keep blaming, judging and attacking.

When Jim kept interrupting the team in a creative marketing session where he challenged every idea, Nancy finally held up her hand, palm out and said "Stop."

Then with all eyes on her she said those magic words, "What's your intention."

It was very quiet until after an agonizing two whole minutes Jim said, "I guess I just wanted to prove that I have lots of good ideas and want to be known as a creative leader."

With that he sat down.

What happened next was very powerful. There was a collective sigh of relief. The short accountability question brought the hundred pound gorilla into the room for all to see. And, once Jim owned his annoying behavior, the gorilla immediately began to shrink to the size of an emoji and the tension in the room disappeared.

This four-word question has saved tons of time and aggravation. Practice it with friends and then get ready to use it in contentious work situations and see how quickly difficulties can be resolved.