The Power of Talking to Big People like they’re Children
“That tuna sandwich looks magnificent,” I told my wife. She laughed. It was a basic tuna on wheat. But I was test driving a crazy idea.
I spoke to her like I speak to our 5-year-old granddaughter. (I know. That sounds strange. But go with me.)
Imagine how you’d talk to a team member if they were one of your children or grandchildren.
A good place:
My mind goes to a good place when I talk with Ellasyn. She’s our granddaughter.
- I’m glad to see her.
- I slow down.
- I give her undivided attention.
- I admire little things.
- I notice how she’s learning and growing.
- I respect her accomplishments.
- I encourage her to try again.
Which items in the above list AREN’T relevant to big people interactions?
Compassion goes up and criticism goes down when you employ child-like communication.
Big person words:
Use big person words but speak to their inner child.
- You must be proud.
- How did you learn how to do that?
- What happened?
- Let’s try again.
Talk to adults like children. But don’t treat adults like children.
Team members have adult skills and big-person responsibilities. They meet grown-up expectations.
It’s a secret:
Don’t tell team members you’re talking to them like children.
I don’t like the thought that I’m being treated like a child. But I confess that on the inside I’m still a kid. I enjoy admiration and love learning.
Try this approach only if you respect your team. Condescension is insulting. Manipulation is deadly. Always be sincere and genuine.
I’ve tested this myself with transformative results.
I know this is weird. Would you give this approach a test drive and give me feedback?
Communicating with a child-like approach elevates leadership effectiveness.
What shifts in your thinking when you choose to talk with team members as if they were a child or grandchild?
How to Talk to Your Child: The Best Strategies for Effective Communication – YouTube
How To Talk To Kids So They Listen – YouTube
When talking about impediments to listening its often said we are distracted by the mental preparation of our next response… could it be that we don’t do that with children… we sense no win / loss so we just engage, listening and “getting on their wavelength” becomes the focus point.
Thanks Ken. Love that observation. I don’t have an agenda when I talk with our grandchildren. They control the direction of the conversation.
What an excellent point. I feel as though I do this frequently especially with my volunteers but I look at it as being willing to be transparent, caring and real with people and, for the most part, people respond positively when they know you really do care about them!
Leaders “frame the issue” so we can see things in a new way.
Dan–you hit a home run with today’s post.
Thanks Paul. Your encouragement helps. I was uncomfortable posting this one, even though I’ve put it into practice, it might seem condescending.
Dan, I see the “interaction list” as spot on, surely we can associate the items in everyday life and Leadership. Perhaps the controlling issues our Children / Grandchildren have on us can be the stepping stone with those we wish to lead, mentor and guide.
Thanks Tim. I’ve been practicing the child-like-communication approach for a couple weeks. I think it strengthens connection and makes me more likeable.
As a recent grandfather, great post and I agree with Paul. Framing your conversation as if you were speaking to a child removes all the judgement and criticism from your mind as you wait to see what they will reveal and show you about their thinking. You don’t overpraise a grandchild, but you are always pleased with any accomplishment they show or share with you. Thanks.
Congratulations Michael. Don’t tell anyone, but we love the grandchildren more than we love their parents. 🙂
According to my father, he and my children had a common enemy: me!
Thanks for reminder of mental preparation. I find that I explain myself better with children because I know the word “why” is about to come out of their mouth. Adults my be thinking why, but may not ask for one reason or another. Hopefully I can now put that same mindset into my conversations and it may allow them to be more creative with how they go about a project.
Thanks Pat. Right on. I simplify explanations when talking with my granddaughter. I tend to over-explain when talking with adults. Addressing the ‘why’ makes perfect sense. It’s better than rushing to explanations.
Good comment Dan – pointing out the difference between simplifying explanations and over-explaining, something I tend to do myself. Over-explaining, giving more information, history and background, unless requested, only tends to confuse people; especially if it is a new concept or process. Thank you clarifying – address the why instead of rushing to explanations.
I presented a workshop back in 2014 at our nonprofit and youth serving organization conference, called “Cultivating the Connection – Finding Your Inner Child.” I encouraged attendees to see the child inside of themselves and others. The impact of experiences in our youth (both positive and negative) plays a huge part in who we are as adults. By holding onto that part of ourselves, we can unearth creativity and promote kindness, healing and learning together. I am happy to see you thinking this way, Dan, love your articles and insights. Ellasyn is beautiful. Look what you’re already learning from her and about yourself.
Thanks Karen. I was uncomfortable post this because it might seem condescending. It’s affirming to see someone else exploring this approach.
I had some Ellasyn time yesterday. I threaten her with headlocks and she tries to get away. But there’s always gentleness. Perhaps the use of headlocks is enhances with gentleness. 🙂
Grandparents play a tremendous role in shaping us. At 60 years old, I still hold tightly to the examples set by mine. They continue to inspire me. A nice icebreaker/exercise for a staff meeting is to have everyone bring in (or Zoom) a photo of themselves as a child. You can play a match up game if it’s not obvious, but then have the person tell the story around the picture and why they chose it. Have them try to remember what they might have been thinking when it was taken. When we did that, it was like we were a roomful of children again. I highly recommend it. Also recommend watching Twilight Zone – Kick the Can episode or the movie “Cocoon.”
Thanks for frame, I also remember my child hood wit my grand parents. considering the organization we need to have achieve target, also collogues either senior or junior are not behaving like child, i think this is very difficult manage. please can elaborate on this.
Great blog! You nailed this one! Not that you don’t always nail it. 🙂
Hey, thanks John!
Dan, Great blog this morning. I really like not only your message, but that by example, you also teach us that sometimes wisdom can come from unexpected sources. We are told our faith is to be like that of a child. But in our “adult wisdom” we too often fail to recognize the difference between “childish” and “child-like”. Maybe we would learn more wisdom if we spent time with young children. Am so thankful for my grand and great grands.
Thanks Alan. We could learn to be present and enjoy what we’re doing from our grandchildren. 🙂 … Congrats on having great grands.
Yep — 3 normal wonderful kids, 6 fantastic grandkids, and 3 perfect great grands. As my Tremendous friend would have put it about the three “kids”, all boys, except two. Keep up your great work and wisdom.
I completely get why you were hesitant to post this. The fear that someone might misinterpret is real.
Where I ended up going in my head as I read your post hesitantly myself, was the emotion one must feel when they are speaking with a grandchild — for me, it would be love. So, that feeling along with the approach is what especially connected with me.
Thanks for the post, Dan.
I think a leader would give more attention to the needs of their employees if they were talked to like children but not treated like children. A leader wants to help that employee grow to their fullest extent. it may feel strange to attempt to talk in this certain way, but like it was stated above, it might just help to slow down and give your whole attention to something that is important to an employee. That care and attention could make the difference to someone who is trying something new in their job or career.
I have seen the same thing happening at church, when it is a special day that the preacher focusses on the children and prepared a special sermon aimed at the children, then everybody is in awe as to what a wonderful sermon it was. People assume that, if you are an adult, you don’t need explanations or “small” words hahahaha
Thanks Marike. Maybe people listen better to the children’s sermon. Maybe they remember it better too. The thought is funny.
I read your pieces religiously and THIS ONE is exacting! Having spent a day with granddaughters of the weekend, it struck my heart and changed my morning. I am a positive, glass full kind of person…however, I can do better in communicating with teachers and staff!
Thanks for jumping in Traci. It’s one thing to be positive. It’s another thing to communicate effectively. (That seems like an important thought.) 🙂