Top Ten Interpersonal Skills -3- Know What You Want
I’m blogging about the Top Ten Interpersonal Communication Skills, and this is my third post in the series. The lesson?
Know What You Want
The first question that a doctor is taught to ask a patient is, “What is your chief complaint?” more commonly expressed as “What’s wrong?” or “What’s your problem?” I’ve observed that everyone has the answer to that kind of question. Everyone knows what’s wrong, what’s the problem, and what is their chief complaint. Everybody knows what they don’t want, including you. So complaining is easy.
But when you’re unhappy and stuck, I can tell you what your problem is. Your problem is that if all you know is what you don’t want, you will get more of it. In part, this is the nature of sanity. Your brain doesn’t really know what to do with negatives, so telling it not to do something is quite like telling it to do something. In both cases, doing something gets attention.
And in part, this is a function of your reticular activating system, a group of cells in your brain stem that acts like radar for relevance to wants and don’t wants.
Tell little Johnny not to ‘bother those people,’ and he will immediately proceed to do so. Tell little Johnny not to ‘play with the cigarette butts in the ashtray,’ and that’s exactly what he’ll do. The radar for relevance kicks in when you’re getting married, and suddenly it seems the whole world is getting married too! Having a baby? It’s a baby boom! Buying a certain car? There goes a truckload of them! What you notice is relevant to what you want, or don’t want. And if all you know is what you don’t want, you will get more of it.
That’s why the challenge in life, and in communication specifically, is to define a direction, and organize yourself around that outcome. You need to know what you are aiming towards, what you intend to achieve, and why you intend to achieve it, or you just keep cycling back to the easy stuff, the complaints, problems, and obstacles that you can’t seem to avoid.
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “Begin with the end in mind.” Knowing what you intend to end up with is essential before you interact with someone. It will help you organize, practice, and respond appropriately when the unexpected occurs. It is a fundamental key to purposeful and productive behavior.
The end I have in mind is a more interactive relationship with YOU! That’s why I keep telling you that your comments and feedback are always welcome, about this post, this series, or the blog in general.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.