Continuing Monday’s topic, how do we practically, effectively speak the truth in love? Here’s a useful recipe for saying the tough thing. Remember, we want to focus on behavior, rather than character or personality.
Action: Explain in clear, objective, non-judgemental words what the person is doing (or not doing) that’s causing a problem. “When you do this…”
Results: Defining and explaining (again, non-judgementally) the results of those actions. “…this is what happens.”
Consequences: Explaining clearly the negative consequence of the actions. “…and this is why it’s a problem.”
Continuing from Monday’s example, husband is late for dinner for the third time this week.
Frustration is understandable. She could say: “You inconsiderate jerk! Why can’t you for ONCE do what you said you were going to do? You obviously don’t care about your family as much as you do your job.” Did you catch the reference to character (inconsiderate jerk) and the interpretation of motive (you don’t care)?
Or she could try sarcasm. “Kids, allow me to introduce you to the man you see walking in our back door…your father.”
What is this woman expecting to accomplish by making these statements? This, perhaps? Husband: “Why, yes, I AM an inconsiderate jerk, and kids, I’ll bet you don’t recognize me. Honey, thank you so much for pointing this out. You’re amazing that way! From now on, I’m going to be home early. In fact, let ME cook dinner tomorrow night!” as he hugs his children, pets the dog and kisses his wife while music swells in the background.
What can she say instead?
“You are late for the third time this week.” (She stated a fact, not an interpretation…and by the way, she’s gotta speak it in an objective, non-sarcastic manner for it to get through.)
“When you are late for dinner” (action), “I have trouble getting dinner on the table because our kids are underneath my feet. When we sit down to eat, we miss your company.” (results). “And this is why it’s a problem: Everyone feels frazzled by the time dinner is ready. Also, I have to come up with excuses for why Daddy’s not here at dinnertime.” (consequences). “Dinner is so much better for the kids and me when you’re here with us during this important part of the day. I need your help and we want your company. The kids and I want to tell you what happened today…and we want to hear from you, too.”
Why results and consequences persuade: Most people don’t want to be the cause of negative consequences.
There are exceptions to every situation, but give this a try next time you need to say something hard to a loved one or friend!