Teen Parenting Expert’s Tip of the Month – September

Keep it Short & Simple
By Barbara McRae, MCC
As a writer and a business woman, I’ve learned to appreciate clarity in all kinds of communication. Clarity is easily achieved when you keep your messages short and simple. When we are unclear, we can expect others to get annoyed or bewildered.

Brevity alone doesn’t work. It isn’t just about the number of words you use; it’s which words you’ve chosen to illustrate your point. This requires some forethought. A thoughtful communicator doesn’t pour out a stream of words without first choosing a vessel to receive the content. After all, communication that isn’t received is wasted.

Making the content short and simple is the job of the leader, the parent coach. When the focus is on how can I be an effective communicator in order for my words to be easily understood by another (teens or adults), then your chances of being successful will dramatically improve.

For some, clearly communicating feels unnatural. You might resist by thinking: “I don’t want to change; my kid should know what I mean!” Whenever I hear that, it tells me that the communicator wants the listener to do all the work. It’s logical, though, for the initiator of the conversation to take the lead. Also, be aware that short and simple doesn’t mean that you need to “dumb it down” or oversimplify.

An effective communications model I’ve learned over the years in coaching business owners and executives also applies to personal communications. It’s a three-pronged approach: Background, Action, Results. The acronym is BAR. Many of you already know I love acronyms; you can think of it as “raising the BAR” to attain more productive communication.

Here’s how it works, give yourself a limit of 1-3 short and simple sentences for each letter:
• Background description of the situation or problem
• Action taken, not taken or that you are now requesting of someone
• Results to be achieved or benefits of an action or change

Action Step:
Whenever you have the urge to talk to your teen about a concern that you have, think it through before initiating the conversation. Instead of just thinking about the subject, though, think about how you want to present the information and how you can best help your son or daughter understand it. Keep in mind how the listener processes information.

Once you’ve taken the time to prepare for your conversation, ask your teenager for five minutes and stick to this timing. Most people are much more willing to listen if they know you’ll keep it short and simple. If you need more time, be respectful and ask if you can continue now or if it would be better to schedule more time later.

The more agitated parents get, the more we want to drive our point home. Don’t! Take care not to sound like a broken record. If you do, you’ll dilute your message. Simplicity is powerful.

My best,
Campus Clam Parenting Expert
P.S. To learn more about effective communication, see Coach Your Teen to Success. For additional resources, visit www.frontier.com.

© 2008 Barbara McRae

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