(Photo Credit: Joriel "Joz" Jimenez/Flickr)
1. Don't Use Directives
Directives put others on the defensive. Phrases such as, "you should," "you are," and "you need" break down communication, because the other person often feels insulted. Instead of, "you should read that book," saying "that book is relevant to what we are talking about, you might want to read it" is more likely to engender curiosity in the other person.
"You need" assumes you know what the other person needs; you don't. You likely know what you need, however. "I need you to finish this by 5" is more accurate than "you need to finish this by 5."
The third example, "you are," is often followed by something that could be an insult. "You are late again" is more likely to humiliate the other person instead of encouraging him to be on time in the future. Besides, he may be "late again" because he narrowly avoided driving into a pile-up on the highway, and stayed to answer police questions.
2. Always, Never
"You always do this," and "that never happens" weaken your argument because they are unrealistic. Almost nothing happens "always" or "never." Others will take you seriously if you don't use these absolutes.
3. Be Tough on the Issue, Not the Person
This form of communication is often the sign of a good manager. Let's say Bob is always late. Humiliating Bob for being late is being tough on Bob. Pointing out to Bob, in private, that his tardiness is a problem and if he cannot get to work on time, it may affect his employment, is being tough on the issue.
You don't control whether Bob starts getting to work on time, but you do most effectively communicate when you focus on the issue, not the person.
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