The young girl responded, “Mom, no, I'm not gonna get a chance.”
A colleague told me this story about her daughter, and after I stopped laughing, I had to tell her that she hadn't used a little-recognized, yet powerful communication tool. Since she had hired me to teach assertiveness for her organization, I felt comfortable giving her this feedback.
Her stumbling block? My colleague had used a question instead of a direct assertive statement. Using a question (Can you please clean your room?) allows the other person to make the choice, and you may not get what you want. You are being less direct.
Using a direct statement, such as “Sweetie, I want you to clean your room before lunch,” makes it very clear what you expect, and as a result you are more likely to get it. Of course, there are no guarantees with three-year-olds, but even with children, you have a better chance of getting what you want when you are direct.
This “secret” can also work in the workplace. Listen to the difference: “Boss, I would like to go to the conference next week,” versus “Boss, may I go to the conference?” Both are polite, but which one sounds more likely to give the speaker what she wants? The direct statement usually has more success.
The second communication secret was summed up in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. In that movie, Yoda, the Jedi Master, proclaims: "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."
Be cautious with the use of the word “try,” if you want others to be accountable for their action or inaction. If you say to your employee, “Please try to meet the deadline,” he or she can always say later, “Well, I tried, but something else came up.”
You can be polite and still use a straightforward statement, such as, “I need you to meet the deadline.” As mentioned above, when you are direct, you are more likely to get what you want.
Monitor yourself over the next few days. Is your word choice preventing you from getting what you want?
For additional tips on effective communication, check out my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.
Barbara Pachter provides training and coaching on communication and business etiquette. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.