Summarizing the Power of Observations

For clarity of thinking and communication, the first segment is to observe well. Step back a bit and observe: the situation, the feelings, the desires or thoughts giving rise to the feelings, and the present request.

Words matter even in thinking. Describe the situation without judgmental or fighting words. Describe only the specific and current situation. Think about the words to think with. Use these. "I see . . ." "I hear . . ."  " I observe . . ."

Choose words for feelings that own the feelings. A few good words at hand are better than a large vocabulary of confusing words. Use these: glad, happy, sad, angry, mad, afraid, lonely, tired, curious.

Connecting the feelings with the common human desires that produced the feelings will help connect the people involved. Use words which clearly own the desires. Say, "I feel X because I wanted Y" (Don't say "you" for Y.)

There is a request presented with every piece of communication. Make the request intentional and verbal with words that call for specific, one-step, and affirming action. Say, "Would you be willing to . . . ?"

The request, "Would you be willing to tell me what I just said?" is helpful both for meeting one's own need to be heard and for ensuring or correcting the clarity of the communication. Keep the listening tone of voice.

This same observation thinking can be used to understand incoming communication. Be sure to ask if the observations are correct. Here's the formula: "I wonder if, when you see Z, you feel X because you want Y" (Don't say "me" for Y.)

Use this Observation Worksheet or review the more in-depth articles on each of these steps. One large task of observation is to keep clear about who owns what. Perhaps some of my work about Selfishness and Unselfishness would offer further help.

Some of the ideas in this article come from these works:

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Copyright 2014 Wilma Zalabak

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