There Are Only Three Ways to Communicate
There are only 3 ways to communicate with any person: carelessly, carefully and caringly. The first two, careless and careful communication, undermine and destroy relationships. Only the latter, caring communication, builds relationships. This is especially evident with difficult people since this is why they are perceived as difficult.
Care-less communication is talking within your own values while ignoring the value system of the difficult person. You are generally more careless when you wear a ‘self-righteous’ attitude such as “I am right, you are wrong and we are doing it my way!” This is often termed arrogant or insensitive.
Care-full communication is speaking within the difficult person’s values and ignoring your own. You are generally more careful when you wear a ‘self-wrongrous’ attitude such as “I am wrong and you are right, so we will do it your way.” his is often termed as wimpy or subservient.
Caring communication, the only effective way with a difficult person, is communicating your values inside their values. You generally communicate with more caring when you wear no attitude. This is reflected in an approach like, “My values are right for me and your values are right for you…so I am going to inject my values inside yours to encourage you to cooperate.” his is often termed respectful or sensitive.
It is only by respecting your own values and those of the difficult person that useful communication can occur.
The Five Fabulous Ways
Let’s put the Choice Theory™ principles and Caring Communication together into a complete communication process. Remember the intent of all effective communication is to resolve something and this begins with building a relationship.
The Caring Communication behaviors that build connections with difficult people are:
Conversely, there are specific behaviors which build disconnections with difficult people very quickly. There are the behavior choices which destroy a relationship in seconds:
Using Caring Communication here are ive fabulous factors to building a relationship:
- exercising self control
- developing trust
- showing respect
- having a clear intention
- having a simple pro
These Five Fabulous Factors have practical value. There are some guides:
- To ensure you use self-control ask yourself, “Will what I am going to do and say respect both my values and theirs?”
- To develop trust ask them to ofer their perspective first!
- To show respect acknowledge their right to feel as they do!
- To clarify your intention to resolve the issue acknowledge their right to their perceptions!
- to build a resolution check to ensure both you and the person feel respected !
- To ensure resolution remind youself you are selling an option which respects both parties!
- To complete the communication process use A Walk In The Park, a technique which we will discuss short
“Let’s put it all together…”
Moving a difficult person from complaining, criticizing, whining or blaming to resolving their problem is easy with just A Walk In The Park. You can help resolve any conflict with any difficult person by simply following these five steps. With practice you will get so skilled at it you will want people to complain to you so you can use this effective technique.
A Walk in the Park is a simple, practical, problem-solving tool learned and used easily by anyone determined to deal with difficult people. (See Figure 5.1) Its metaphor is a park I played in as a child that had five benches. Each bench represents the key step and question in moving a difficult person from complaining to problem solving.
By following the M-shaped path and directions of the arrows and visiting, each bench and question you provide the difficult person with an opportunity to explore the problem with someone. You act only as the guardian of a journey through the park. The difficult person has an opportunity to analyze their problem with a supportive person who will encourage them to self-evaluate and identify a
Let us consider each question independently. Notice how each one facilitates you in assisting the difficult person in taking control of their problem and dealing with it more effectively.
Each question comes from the Choice Theory™ and Caring Communication principles and tools, so there are no surprises in taking “A Walk in the Park.”
The Park Bench questions are:
- Bench What do you want?
- Bench What have you been doing to get it?
- Bench 3. Is what you have been doing working?
- Bench What else could you do to get what you want?
- Bench 5. Are you ready to make a plan?
Let’s consider each briefly and their role in assisting a difficult person to deal with their current challenge.
1. What do you want? Want Bench
The Want Bench begins the journey through the M shaped path of the park.
Remember everyone has a value system which provides the motivation for their behaviors – the source of their wants.
When a difficult person has a problem this means that, they perceive some perception does not match their value system. In other words, the difficult person has a want that they do not know how to ill. Therefore, under every complaint, criticism, blame, or frustration is a want. It is important to help the difficult person put their want into words which provide an understanding and direction for their future actions.
Therefore, this is the perfect place to start. It is common for this to be the first time the difficult person has put what they want into specific words! Since usually they are asked what they want, rather than, what they don’t want. Of course, in this journey your job is to carefully avoid any judgments of what the difficult person wants to demonstrate respect. This non-judgmental approach is crucial to the success of “A Walk in the Park.”
2. What have you been doing to get it? Doing Bench
The Doing Bench is the next bench to visit because it helps the difficult person to identify and appreciate all that they have been doing so far to deal with their challenge.
It is often useful to have a way of recording or remembering each specific effort the difficult person has already made to solve her problem. This information has use lafter. For it is here that you can acknowledge all the efforts already made by the difficult person without judging the appropriateness of any of them.
3. Has what you have been doing worked? Self-Evaluation Bench
The Self-Evaluation Bench in at the center of the park. It is the focal point of impact on the difficult person. It is the difference which makes the difference in getting a difficult person to move from complaining to problem solving.
It is here the difficult person gets to self-evaluate and let go of his earlier attempts to solve their problem while keeping their self-respect – a high value. It is here the difficult person evaluates each of their earlier efforts. Since they self-evaluates without any judgment from you, they are able to let go of these choices and move on to find new options.
This is the powerful difference in this approach. Once a difficult person has self-evaluated their earlier behavior choices and heard themselves say they did not work, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to use them again in the current situation.
This frees their creativity to generate other possible options at the next bench. If someone else evaluates their behavior, they feel attacked and driven genetically to defend their actions to retain their self respect.
4. What else could you do to get what you want? Options Bench
The Options Bench is next. Now the difficult person has freed themselves from their ties to their earlier attempts because they have decided through self-evaluation they were ineffective. Now they are ready to use their own creativity to identify other possible options to move closer to their values.
Since the difficult person’s value system is not real, you are striving, not to recreate the difficult person’s value system, but rather to move them closer to some aspect of it that is deemed important.
Again, it is important you record or remember the possible options the difficult person generates. Strive for at least five to seven action options they could choose which would move them closer to what they want.
5. Are you ready to make a plan? Planning Bench
At the Planning Bench, the difficult person is asked to select one of their options from the list uncovered at the last bench which they believe will take them towards what they want. It is vital this choice be in the hands of the difficult person so the result is also theirs, which will empower them.
It is important for you to emphasize to the difficult person their move towards what they want, like all important things in life, will usually be achieved one small step at a time.
The difficult person has selected the option. You then assist him or her to develop a specific and detailed plan of action which is likely to take them towards what they want by uncovering the specifics of:
- What specifically are you going to do?
- Who specifically does it involve?
- When specifically are you going to do it?
- Where specifically you going to do it?
- How specifically you going to do it?
There is no need to ask why the difficult person will do the plan because you already know the why is because the difficult person perceives it will take them toward their values.
A Walk in the Park is quick, simple and it works. Remember, these are the five benches. Let’s look at a few brief examples to illustrate:
An Example with School Friends Mani & Sandy
Mani and Sandy are attending university full time. Mani approached Sandy complaining she cannot focus on her studies because she has discovered she now has high blood pressure. Using a Careless Communication style, Mani blames her frustration on everybody and everything around her. This includes her boyfriend, her mother, her career choice and even her genetics. She complains about the efforts she has made to be healthier; about having several school projects not completed and being very worried about her academic future.
Mani is one of Sandy’s closest friends. Sandy asks Mani if she would like to talk about it for a few minutes, i.e., to take “A Walk in the Park.” Mani agrees as Sandy is not just her friend but also someone she respects and trusts. So let us follow their conversation to see and hear how Sandy takes Mani for “A Walk in the Park.”
Remember the five park bench questions are:
- What do you want?
- What have you been doing to get it?
- Is what you have been doing working?
- What else could you do to get what you want?
- Are you ready to make a plan?
First, Sandy Guides Mani to the Want Bench – What do you want?
Sandy says: Mani you sound frustrated and scared to me, what do you want out of this situation you find yourself in right now?
Mani responds: I want to have a future where I feel healthy and active. I want to finish my education and I want to stop being afraid.
Sandy asks: Which one do you want first, want to move towards right away?
Mani replies: Well I guess that would be getting my health back under control because everything else depends on that, doesn’t it?
Second, Sandy takes Mani to the Doing Bench – What have you been doing to get it?
Sandy: Mani, I think you are right! So what exactly have you been doing so far to get your health back under control?
Mani: Well, let’s see. I have been cutting back on the fast food and I have been limiting my Coca Cola to only a case a month. Also, I am trying to eat more chicken instead of beef and I am taking vitamins regularly.
Third, Sandy takes her to the Self-Evaluation Bench – Is what you have been doing working?
Sandy: Mani, you sound like you have been doing several things, but I have a question. Think about your answer carefully. Has cutting back on fast food and limiting the Coca Cola you drink, eating more chicken and taking vitamins got you the control of your health you want?
Mani: Well, they are supposed to help, and I have been doing them for months and they seem to work for other people…but really…when I think about it carefully they have not been enough to get me the health I want.
Fourth, Sandy takes Mani to the Options Bench – What else could you do to get what you want?
Sandy: Mani, these behaviors may work for others but you are saying they are not enough for you, is that right? (Mani nods) hen what else could you consider doing to take you towards having more control of your health?
Mani: Well, my doctor wants me to take blood pressure medication and my boyfriend wants me to cut out Coca Cola and beef all together. Also, I could do some exercising which I have avoided. And I guess I could take the stress management course the Student Service Department ofers. I could also make more time for some of my hobbies like skiing and soccer. And I could connect with my parents more often for support. When I think about it many new options seem to appear.
Fifth, Sandy takes her to the Planning Bench – Are you ready to make a plan?
Sandy: Mani, you have identified several new options you could consider doing to move towards more control of your health. Which one appeals the most to you and which you are ready to create an action plan?
Mani: I would like to avoid medications if I can, and the stress management course scheduling is for next spring. I think the one that is most realistic for me at this point is the exercise option. I have been kind of putting if of knowing eventually I would need to consider it. So, seize the opportunity, eh?
Sandy: Mani, what specifically are you prepared to do about exercising that would take you towards more control of your health? Also when, where and how are you going to do it; and who will it involve?
Mani: I could start walking each evening after supper for twenty minutes around my neighborhood. And I could walk at a brisk pace to get my heart beating a little faster, but not too much. And maybe my boyfriend would come with me sometimes for company.
Sandy: Mani, that sounds like a plan that will move you towards more control of your health. To ensure it’s the right plan for you, would you evaluate it in terms of your commitment to doing it right away? On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest commitment, how strongly are you committed to it?”
Mani: You know, Sandy, just talking to you about it has helped me feel better and realize there are many things I can do to take better control of my health. My walking is a good first step for me, so I am really committed…at least an 8 or 9.”
Sandy: That’s great, Mani, I would be interested to know in a few days how it is going. Will you let me know?
Mani: I sure will Sandy and thanks for listening I really appreciate it. I had better get back to work, eh?
Regardless of the nature of the problem, whether financial, family, drug abuse, personality conflicts, the process of guiding someone through A Walk in the Park does not change. Always use the same M-shaped path to the same benches in the same order.
An Example with Colleagues Jacky & Sneha
Jacky and Sneha work together at a community hospital. Sneha reports to Jacky, her supervisor. Sneha has been saying for several weeks she does not have enough help to do her job. She keeps saying, “There is just too much work!” Some of her team have expressed concern about her level of stress.
Jacky has been using a Careful Communication style with Sneha to date and with little efect. Jacky suspects Sneha is not working efficiently; she may be stuck in some old habits and need to learn new ways of doing things. Jacky arranges to meet with Sneha to take her for “A Walk in the Park.”
Jacky tells Sneha she would like to explore her concerns about her workload. Sneha reiterates her view of having too much work. Jacky listens carefully and then begins their journey through the park.
Let’s follow them.
First, Jacky Guides Sneha to the Want Bench – What do you want?
Jacky says: Sneha, I appreciate your frustration, and, since our budget is tight, we need to use our ingenuity so we can solve this problem. Let’s start with you telling me what you want your job to be like?
Sneha says: I want to be on top of things, to be able to devote time to the most important areas in our section. We have the seniors’ service starting up next month. There are my continual recruitment duties, as well as, the ongoing financial and administrative stuff I want under control.
Jacky asks: Which aspect is the most important to you right now and you want to get more control of immediately?
Sneha responds: I want to feel a sense of control and balance with all my responsibilities here at the hospital.
Second, Jacky takes Sneha to the Doing Bench – What have you been doing to get it?
Jacky: Sneha, what exactly have you been doing so far to get a sense of control and balance to your responsibilities?
Sneha: Well, you know it is important the new seniors’ service starts strong. In addition, you cannot rely on just anyone to be as committed to it as I am. Most people do not have the experience and skills I have in recruitment so I have to do all that stuff myself as well. And, of course that new financial software we are using is complex and time consuming. Therefore, I have set aside Mondays and Tuesdays just for the new seniors’ service. I have designated Wednesday mornings for finances, and I have scheduled all applicants’ screenings for Thursday. And I let Fridays for the rest of my supervision duties, committee work, correspondence, and stuff like that.
Third, Jacky takes her to the Self-Evaluation Bench – Is what you have been doing working?
Jacky says: Sneha, you obviously have implemented several changes. I want to ask you an important question. Think about your answer carefully. You have set aside Mondays and Tuesdays for the seniors’ service; Wednesdays mornings for finances; Thursdays for applicants screening and Fridays for the rest of your duties. Have these efforts got you the sense of control and balance to your responsibilities you want?
Sneha: Well, that’s what I learned in that time management course I took last year and those techniques seem to work for Ray and other people…but actually…when I look at it carefully they have not created, for me, a sense of balance or control in what I am doing.
Fourth, Jacky takes Sneha to the Options Bench – What else could you do to get what you want?
Jacky says: Sneha, these behaviors may well work for others, or even for you in other situations, but you just said they are not working for you in this situation. Is that right? (Sneha nods) hen what else could you consider doing to take you towards having more balance and control in your job?
Sneha: Well, I am not sure. I have suspected I need to delegate more things to others, but I am hesitant to do so for fear of looking incompetent. But when I hear myself say what I am doing isn’t working, I realize I may look that way already to some people. So I feel I have to do something different, don’t I? It is important for me to continue with my team’s supervision, but perhaps I could ask my administrative assistant to do more like some of the recruitment duties or maybe I could make some time to do a familiarization course on the new software. I could also ask some of the committee members on the seniors’ service to take over some of the duties I have been carrying. And I also could learn to start saying no when someone wants to give me more work I really don’t have time to do. When I think about it there are more things I can do than I realized.
Fifth, Jacky takes Sneha to the Planning Bench – Are you ready to make a plan?
Jacky says: Sneha you have identified several new behaviors you could consider doing to move towards more balance and control of in your role here at the hospital. Which one do you think would start you on the road toward creating that balance and control you want? And, which you would like to build into an action plan?
Sneha: I think my first step would be to deal with the most time consuming aspect, my recruitment responsibilities. That would probably make the biggest difference to me right now.
Jacky: What specifically are you prepared to do to your recruitment responsibilities that would take you toward more of a sense of balance and control in your job? And specifically when, where and how are you going to do it; and who will it involve?
Sneha: I plan to sit down with my administrative assistant, Shanti, a very skilled woman, and discuss all the tasks involved in my recruitment responsibilities and determine which ones she would be prepared to take on to free me up for other things. She has offered before to do more, but I have been hesitating. I will not do that anymore. I am going to tutorial a time with her when I leave here, and we will sit down in my office over a cup of coffee. I will explain my situation and ask her for her assistance.
Jacky: hat sounds like a plan which will move you towards more balance and control of your role. To ensure it is the best plan for you, would you evaluate your commitment to doing it? On a scale of one to ten with ten being the highest commitment, how strongly are you committed to it?
Sneha: You know, Jacky, having someone to listen to my concerns has added new perspectives I just didn’t notice before. I feel better prepared to deal with it now. In addition, I notice there are other things I will need to do but this is a great start. This has been very helpful, thank you! So I am very committed…a nine or ten.”
Jacky: That’s great, Sneha. Can I call you next week to see how you are making out with it? And, of course, if you need to discuss this again, I would be pleased to continue to assist you in this.
Sneha: Sure, Jacky, and thank you, again. I really appreciate your time. I need to go tutorial that appointment right now. I will talk to you next week.
As you can see, this is very straight forward process. Just follow the bench questions and you will do fine. The Choice Theory™ principles and Caring Communication enable you to assist others to identify new behaviors which honor their values and move them toward what they want.
In addition, what you want as a person displays itself as well. You are viewed as respectful, caring and helpful. This is different from being viewed as the opposite. Notice also your job is not to take over or solve their problem.
An Example with Family Members Mani and Sandy
Mani and Sandy are both in their early thirties and siblings. Mani is on maternity leave with her second baby and Sandy has just arrived for a visit. Their parents live across town. Mani has used a somewhat Careless Communication style with her family in the past often demanding and impatient. Mani’s spouse has recently let her and she is devastated. She has not been close to her brother for many years but now feels alone and desperate. Mani tells Sandy her husband has abandoned her with two children, many bills and no support.
Let’s listen to Sandy take Mani for “A Walk in the Park.”
First, Sandy Guides Mani to the Want Bench – What do you want?
Sandy says: Mani you are very upset about this and I appreciate you feeling overwhelmed about it all.
Tell me what you want out of this situation for yourself now?
Mani responds: Sandy, I want my husband back, I want help with our debt because I can’t carry it all on my own, and I want to stop feeling so scared all the time.
Sandy asks: Which one is the most important to you right now and that you want to deal with first?
Mani says: I would say I want to stop feeling afraid all the time.
Second, Sandy takes Mani to the Doing Bench – What have you been doing to get it? Sandy: Mani, what exactly have you been doing so far to stop feeling afraid all the time?
Mani: Well, I have been calling him at his mother’s place every night. I have written him a letter begging him to come home. I have asked his mother to help me get him back. I have asked his brother and two sisters to talk with him. I even went to his workplace to see if I could catch him at his lunch break to talk to him. I have also cleaned up the house and got in his favorite foods in case he decides to drop by to see me or the kids.
Third, Sandy takes Mani to the Self-Evaluation Bench – Is what you have been doing working?
Sandy: Mani, you obviously have done several things to prevent yourself from feeling afraid. I want to ask a question. Think about your answer carefully. Has calling him, writing him letters, asking his mother, brother and sisters to talk with him or trying to talk to him yourself or having his favorite food handy enabled you to not feel afraid?
Mani: “Well, actually I think sometimes it is making it worse because he is avoiding me and his family is getting frustrated with me too. One of his sisters said I was better of with him gone, but I feel so alone.
Sandy: So Mani, let me ask you this question another way. The actions you took to reduce your fear of being scared, have they been successful for you?
Mani: Well when you say it that way and I think about it, I have to say no they have not. In fact, they almost increase my fear sometimes.
Fourth, Sandy takes Mani to the Options Bench – What else could you do to get what you want?
Sandy: Mani, these behaviors may well have worked for you in other situations in the past, but you just said that they are not working this time, it that correct? (Mani nods) hen what else could you consider doing to take you towards having less fear and more self-confidence in your life?
Mani: Well, I guess the opposite of being afraid is being self-confident, eh? So if I want to feel more self-confident I could start doing things that give me a feeling of self-confidence like going out with my girlfriends to the craft courses I love or I could spend more time with our Mom and Dad who I know will support me or I could volunteer at the school where I would be appreciated. And I could put in more overtime to give me more money for the debts. Also, I could go back to school part time, so I am better prepared for a different future if he doesn’t return. So, there are many things I can do to feel better.
Fifth, Sandy takes Mani to the Planning Bench – Are you ready to make a plan?
Sandy says: Mani you have identified five new things you could do to move you towards feeling less fear and more confidence. Which one do you think would start you on the road toward creating that confidence you want and which you would like to build into a specific plan of action for yourself?
Mani: I think I need to do them all, but the first one would be to talk to Mom and Dad about what has happened. I am so embarrassed and yet I know they will be supportive and I need that right away.
Sandy: What specifically are you prepared to do regarding Mom and Dad to reduce your fear and increase your confidence? And specifically when, where, and how are you going to do it? And who will it involve?
Mani: I will call them right now about going over for dinner on Sunday. I will tell them what has happened and ask them for their support regardless of whether he comes back or not.
Sandy: Mani, that sounds like a plan that will move you towards more confidence and less fear in your life. To ensure it is the best plan for you at this time, would you evaluate your commitment to doing it. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest commitment, how strongly are you committed to it?
Mani: You know, Sandy, having you to bounce my situation of has given me a more objective perspective and challenged me to be stronger and value myself more. I feel stronger and more able to deal with it now. In addition, I have learned this is probably just the start of me evolving myself. I appreciate you not demeaning my situation or me. Thank you, this has been very useful. So I am at definite ten.
Sandy: That’s great Mani. It was good for me to have this chat too. I’ll make some coffee while you go call Mom and Dad, OK?
Mani: Great! Thank you Sandy!
Sandy may need to offer more assistance to Mani in the days ahead as she struggles to get control of herself and her emotions. However, the toughest part for both Sandy and Mani is over because she has started to take control of her life again. In addition, at the same time, Sandy has reconnected with his sister.
With many of the people you help, it is not so much you can do something specific as you can help them appreciate no matter how bleak things seem, they can help themselves and, by being there, you assist them in finding the strength to make the effort. By listening to them respectfully without judgment, you honor their values, which encourage them to follow them. Even if you don’t think you do much, what I suggest here is usually so much more than they have available to them; what seems little to you can be a great deal to them.