It’s Not What You Think
Remember the Law of Specificity? Simply stated the Law of Specificity advocates being clear and precise with what you want from the person you are speaking to. Continuing to build on this concept, we focus on how we want the person to act – the desirable behavior.
Stephen Covey tells the story of how his son Sean negotiated a weekly allowance by taking care of the front lawn. Stephen went on an extended business trip arriving home to litter all over the brown grass and a flower bed full of weeds. When he asked his son what happened to their deal, Sean broke down in tears. What happened? Stephen assumed that Sean knew what to do.
He walked Sean over to the neighbor’s house to show him what the lawn should look like – green grass, no litter, and no weeds; Sean had a visual. He then spent the weekend guiding Sean through all the steps that needed to be completed: from picking up the litter every day, to weeding the flowerbed, watering the lawn, and finally mowing the grass. All along the way, he gave Sean feedback. When he left for his next business trip, he reminded Sean that the front lawn should look like the neighbor’s when he returned.
This time, he was rewarded for the time and effort he invested in clearly communicating what he expected. Not only did the lawn look better than the neighbor’s when he returned, but his son had developed a sense of pride in the work he had accomplished.
How many times have you gotten frustrated with someone because they did not do what you wanted because they couldn’t read your mind? How many times have you felt that you might as well do everything yourself because you can’t count on someone to do it as well as you can? Really? Maybe the problem wasn’t the other person. Maybe, just maybe, the problem was you!
Before you give up on the people around you, check the language you are using when giving directions or asking for something to be done. Are you clear? Are you focusing on the desired behaviors? Are you communicating what’s in your head? Investing a few minutes of your time and effort up front will actually save you and the person you are working with time, energy, needless stress, frustration, and anxiety.
Give this a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.