Common Communication Mistakes:
When Carol first called me for coaching, she had a long list of complaints about her husband, who I’ll call Don. Even though they’d only been married a few years, she was not happy with him. And of course, he felt the sting of her disappointment. Yet really, Carol was just committing one of many common communication mistakes.
The problem, as I saw it, was not her feelings, it was how she dealt with them – by complaining to her husband regularly. As a result, he became so used to hearing her upsets that he started ignoring them and telling her that he didn’t think he could ever make her happy.
Making Disastrous Communication Mistakes Better:
I asked Carol to list her complaints in the order of upset they caused her. She made the list happily. I then started to work with her on complaint #5. (I didn’t want to start with the most upsetting) and asked her to write why this bothered her.
Her 5th complaint was that her husband didn’t do the things she asked him to do.
Generalized complaints are disastrous to communications. So I asked her to get specific. What specific thing was he not doing?
She replied quickly. “He hasn’t fixed the leaky tap.”
Now that I had a specific, I asked her to write down why it was important to her.
“Because it’s something he should do,” she replied.
I winced. To me, ‘shoulding’ ourselves or others is just not helpful.
So, I asked her to rephrase that, but only using the pronoun “I” and to describe how she would feel if the tap got fixed.
“I would be able to relax,” she said. “And I would feel like my needs matter.”
Great. We were making progress. She was being specific about the issue, she was describing why it mattered, so it was now time to prompt her into asking her husband for what she wanted him to do, rather than voicing her upset about him not doing things. I can’t say how important this step is and what a game changer it can be.
She wasn’t sure about this.
“But what if he continues to ignore me?” she said.
I suggested she make a request for a specific date to test it out. And to add an alternative action if he didn’t want to do what she asked.
Here’s what Carol ended up emailing her husband. (Many men are very visual and email works well for this.)
“Would you fix the tap in the basement this week? It would feel so good to me to have it done. I would feel so considered by you if you did it. If you can’t or don’t want to do it, can we say by the end of the weekend, would it be okay with you if I called someone else to do the work?”
Carol sent it off and didn’t hear from Don about it, but later that day heard some sounds in the basement and sure enough, Don was fixing the tap.
I’ll start working on the other things in her list once she’s recovered from shock.
An Excellent Communication Skill Set:
If you want to spruce up your communication skills, follow these guidelines:
!) Talk only about ‘specific’ situations.
2) Talk about what you want, not what you don’t want.
3) Provide information about how it would feel to you to get what you want.
4) Suggest a completion date.
5) Suggest an alternative.
Learning How to Communicate More Effectively:
If I can help you make your communication more effective, let me know. Call me for a chat.
Please pass this on to anyone you think might benefit! Thanks!