In a previous post “What Is Your Communication Style?” I talked about the importance of direct communication – communicating what we want, what we don’t want, and how we feel in a clear and direct way – because in many ways our communication style directly affects the quality of our life and relationships. Though this may not come naturally for some of us, it is a skill that can be learned and refined.
There is a simple technique that I find useful in cultivating a direct communication style. It is called
the CANDOR Technique. Just Think of “Can-Do.”
You’ll remember it easily.
One of the most important thing about direct and assertive communication is to know your desired outcome – your goal. Consider what you want and how you feel about the situation. And consider the needs and feelings of the other person.
Ask for permission: “I want to talk about an issue that troubles me. Is this a good time? If not, when is a convenient time?” Arranging a convenient time and place with the other person’s permission is often neglected when emotional stakes are high. But it is an important step to ensure effective communication.
Name the problem as you perceive it, and describe when, where, and how it happened. For example, “I notice you didn’t take trash out this morning.” This is the time to be specific, and be wary of common distortions such as generalization, personalization, etc.
Describe how you feel about this situation, directly. Use “I” statements. For example, “I feel upset because I had to take the trash out, but I was already late for work.” It is important to keep it within your own boundary at this point – state how you feel – rather than accuse the other person, because this is when the boundary gets crossed.
Outline what you want – your request for change – and then ask for an agreement. For example, “What I want is that we both share the household chores. Since I take kids to school, I want you to take the trash out every morning. Is this okay with you?” Notice that when you say, “I want you to do something,” you are venturing into the other person’s boundary. It is hence important to ask for an agreement.
If an agreement is reached, you can reinforce it by stating what has been agreed upon between you two. For example, “Good. So you have agreed to take the trash out every morning. If you can’t do it on any given day, please let me know.” If there is no agreement, or an agreement is broken, then it’s time for another direct communication until a new arrangement is reached.
This technique may sound rigid and awkward at the beginning, and it may be hard for those of us who dislike conflicts and confrontations. However, it will become natural with practice, and it will certainly simplify our life and improve our relationships. From personal experience, I find that the best policy is to speak our own truth. More often than not, people respond to what’s true and genuine – and will rise up to meet you at a higher level of honesty and intimacy.
What’s your experience? What have you learned? Please leave a comment and share it with the rest of us.