Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Talk so They’ll Listen Alice wanted to talk to her husband, Sam, about the way he went around with a toothpick in his mouth. She knew from experience that he could be defensive. She could already hear it in her mind: “What difference does it make? I’m not hurting anybody.” And he would be perfectly right. This is a values issue. It’s not hurting or hindering anyone. It’s simply bothering Alice’s somewhat more-polished taste. She rightly cares about how her husband is perceived. So, she gently brings it up in a way that will most likely get the results she wants. “Sam, Honey,” she says, “I know this is no big deal, but the toothpick in your mouth annoys me. You are a good-looking, well-put-together guy and the toothpick takes away from all that. Would you just toss it when it’s done its job?” Now Sam can’t come back with the argument that it doesn’t matter, because Alice has covered all that. “O.k.,” Sam says, “I’ll try to remember.” And Alice thanks him. What if he doesn’t remember? What does Alice say the next time she sees the dreaded thing hanging there? Perhaps Sam gave Alice permission to remind him. Perhaps a gentle remember is acceptable. She might ask, “Help me understand this.” After that, it’s nagging. There are worse things that husbands could do! Here are some pointers in how to get what we want and need without harming the relationship: 1. Ask yourself, “Is this something that is harming or hindering me, or is it simply a matter of taste?” Then, decide whether or not to mention it. 2. Approach the subject when everyone is in a fairly good mood and rested. 3. Set it up as a behavior issue and not a character issue. Bring up one request at a time. 4. Don’t bring up the past or something that cannot be undone (his or her sorry relatives. the dent she put in the car last week). 5. Don’t ask for something the other person cannot provide. 6. Avoid blame. 7. Express appreciation for changed behavior. 8.Be equally willing to accept suggestions from others. nr

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