Since the outcome of a conversation is generally predicted by how the first three minutes go*, it makes sense to fine tune your communication skills.
The harsh start up
Often, the conversation tends to go this way:
“You’re so lazy, you never unstack the dishwasher!”
This is a harsh start up – you can guess the tone (accusatory) and it smacks of blame and criticism. It doesn’t bode well for a good outcome. More than likely, your partner is going to get defensive pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re arguing about other things as well.
What is a soft start up?
It’s a gentler, more effective way of putting a request to your partner. The soft start up has lots of great qualities, and it is quite easy to learn though takes a bit of practice!
Here’s an example:
“I felt annoyed when I got home tonight and no one had unstacked the dishwasher. I would appreciate it if we could we take turns doing it in future?”
Qualities of the soft start up
Can you see the difference? The speaker is complaining – but not criticising or attacking their partner’s character:
- The speaker has used an I statement, so they are owning how they feel: “I felt annoyed…”
- The speaker is offering up a description instead of the judging, blaming tone of the previous start up: “…when I got home tonight and no one had unstacked the dishwasher”.
- The speaker has been clear about what they need: “…could we take turns doing it in future?”.
- The speaker is being polite: “I would appreciate…”
Try it, it really does work. Remember, often it just takes one person to kick start behaviour change. This highly effective technique works well in work situations and with children too. I teach it and other effective strategies when counselling both individuals and couples 😊