To communicate effectively (with your kids, your partner, or anyone else for that matter) you need to follow two simple Communication rules:
Focus on the intent of the communication
Focus on what’s “Actionable” to achieve the intent.
All else is commentary.”
In terms of Parenting there are two things to focus on; 1) any communication is better than no communication, and 2) having something actionable to communicate about is better than communicating just to hear yourself talk.
It is important to teach kids to not go into the street! It is equally important, in fact it may be more important, HOW you teach them to not go into the street. Using the quote of Margaret Meed, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think,” It is great to teach a kid not to go into the street, but what if there are no streets or not all streets look the same.
Here is an old story I remember. A father teaches his son to not go into the street by yelling at him. The problem with that strategy is whenever the kid approaches a street he looks for his father, not the cars.
Think of a telephone here. A telephone exists. A telephone connects people. But, a telephone is separate from what is said over the phone. Being connected is important. But it is equally important to have something to say when you are connected.
That is why I always focus on the Intent of my communication. When I talk to my kids I am always aware of why I am talking to them.
Three Kinds of Communication
Focused Communication happens between a parent and a child when there is no one else around (in their room or in a car). Focused Communication can happen between any two people when it is only those two can can observe the interaction. The key being that it is “private communication!” In the Internet this is called “hidden information.” When two people participate in Focused Communication, information is accumulated that only those 2 people know.
This is important because often times people communicate as if they are in focused communication when in fact they are in semi focused.
Sitting around the diner table as family is not focused communication.
Semi Focused Communication
Semi Focused Communication happens whenever there are more than two people.
This is the more common type of communication. I would think it is probable that there are individuals that lived their whole life always in Semi Focused Communication Situations.
The key to focus on is that in Semi Focused Communication there will never be 100% agreement in perception of the situation. And frankly that is a good thing. You want different Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to bring different perspectives to any problem.
Let me give you an example. I was in a meeting the other day and someone asked the leader a question. I thought the communication was not so much a question to the leader but rather a statement to everyone else.
Un-Focused Communication just happens. The type of clothes you wear, the type of car you drive, and how you keep you room or house are examples of unfocused communication.
Look at the pictures below.
What can you assume about the people that bought the cars? A lot! This is a great example of unfocused communication.