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There is More to Communication than Meets the Eye

April 14, 2011

The other day my daughter, Kelly, was involved in a power struggle with her two-year old, Grace. Kelly was trying to tie Grace’s shoes, so she could go outside and play. Grace was uninterested in having her shoes tied. Grace’s focus was on what she wanted to do. Kelly related to her, “You can’t go out and play until your shoes are tied.” This comment only seemed to enhance the struggle, as Grace seemed to hear only the first portion of the statement. Following her original statement with, “You can go out as soon as your shoes are tied.” settled the controversy. Again, it was, as if she only heard the first part of what Kelly said.


Eliminating the word “not” or the use of contractions is beneficial to us.


As I watched my granddaughters play, I detected the influence that contractions have on us all. When I saw one of them put something in their mouth and said, “Don’t put that in your mouth.” They looked at me with discouragement as they complied. Later, I tried something new and learned something about myself. I told them to keep the rocks out of their mouth. As soon as they responded, I said, “Thank you.” You see, one approach is passive-aggressive and the other assertive.

This is when it occurred to me that there is a huge difference in telling people what we want and don’t want. We naturally thank people for doing what we want them to, especially with children. It is almost demeaning to a person when we express what we disapprove of, or dislike. Even with adults, it seems that many people only hear the first portion of our statements! When we are assertive, we get results and are non-offensive.


Implications that we express can cause other people to tune us out, as they misinterpret.


Telling a child that you don’t want them to throw their coat on the floor, for example. The first part of the sentence, can cause snags, and leave the child feeling, unapproved of by you. On the other hand, if you tell the child that you want them to hang their coat up, the message is clear. The misgiving that we cause with a passive-aggressive approach, does intimidate. However, the very disapproval that we express, can damage our relationships.

Practice eliminating the word “not” and the use of contractions; it is certainly a challenge. Study the way you feel and the impact you have on yourself and other people. If you stumble and use one of these, simply follow it with what you want. It is amazing how the simplest thing affects us, and how challenging these simplicities are to change. There is more to relations than meets the eye!


2 Comments to “There is More to Communication than Meets the Eye”

  1. Linda Wolf says:


    I totally agree with this and use it with the young (and older) people in my life to great effect. Not only is it more effective to put requests in the positive, but I feel so much better. The energy level of saying what you want compared to what you don’t is quite amazing.


    • Sandra says:

      Hi Linda,

      I surely agree with you about the energy level! With some practice, we get quite good at saying and thinking about what we want. Before long what you dislike or wish to avoid, becomes irrelevant and meaningless. Thank you so much for commenting Linda. :)