How to Move from Talking to Action in 10 Steps
Parents say, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.”
Frustrated leaders ask, “How many times have we talked about this?”
Talking isn’t working when:
- Problems persist.
- You have the same conversation over and over.
- All you hear are new excuses.
How to Move from Talking to Action in 10 Steps:
#1. Acknowledge talking isn’t working.
#2. Confront yourself.
Repeating the same conversation over and over is something you let happen.
#3. Stop using the same words.
The words you’re using might be good, but they aren’t working.
#4. Adopt a new approach.
Explain that having the same conversation isn’t an option anymore.
Suppose you argue with one of your kids because they’re always late getting ready for school. Explain that rushing isn’t working. You won’t be yelling, “It’s time to go a half dozen times.” “Departure time is 7:30. If you aren’t in the car tomorrow morning, we’re leaving without you.”
#5. Define the problem.
- Frustration isn’t fun.
- Disrespect for family members.
- Stress kills.
#6. Explain the goal.
Everyone in the car at 7:30 a.m.
#7. Clarify benefits.
A peaceful ride, better relationships, and no summer school.
#8. Discuss consequences.
“We are leaving without you.”
#9. Provide instruction.
- This is how you set an alarm.
- What time should you go to bed?
- When should you get in the shower?
- Lay out your clothes the night before.
- Pack your school backpack the night before.
#10. Stick to your word.
6 alternative approaches:
- Throw a bucket of cold water on the delinquent every morning if they aren’t up at 6:45.
- Treat them like an invalid. Show up in their room with a basin of water and a washcloth.
- Let it go and live with it.
- Learn to enjoy arguing.
- Reward success.
What’s wrong with the 10-step approach listed above?
What do you do when talking isn’t working?
How to Solve Problems Quickly – But 69% of Relationship Problems are Unsolvable
When You’re Ready To Move From Talk To Action
Talking works best when you get specific, have deadlines, and the person commits to the plan.
1. Effective tomorrow, you need to set your alarm and get out of bet by 6:30 am Mon.-through- Fri.
2. Eat breakfast, bush teeth, wash face, and get you school bag ready by 7:25.
3. Be in the car by 7:30.
4. Are you committed to this plan?
5. What should I do, if you are not in the car by 7:30?
Thanks for jumping in, Paul. Your #5 is important. Involve others in setting consequences.
I’ll add to your first sentence, feedback.
When my daughter was three, she decided to teach the other 3-year-olds a new skill. The providers were impressed: when her explanation didn’t make sense to the other kids, she figured out a better explanation. Then they realized she was teaching the other how to open the doors with the child-proof locks! So they moved her up to the 4-year-old room, to give her more of a challenge. If she could figure out #3 in daycare, we adults surely can figure it out.
PS She is now in college, studying to be a special education teacher. She will be a fantastic teacher.
Love this story, Jennifer. I couldn’t help but think about talent – inclinations we are born with. Thanks again for taking time to contribute to the conversation.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from coaching youth sports is that you can’t explain the same concept the same way to different kids and expect them all to get it. And explaining it again the same way is a waste of everyone’s time. If a kid didn’t grasp the concept the first time, try a different way. Repeat until something clicks.
Thanks Steve. It’s funny that when something doesn’t work we tend to repeat it with greater intensity. Better to acknowledge that it didnt work and say, “Let’s try something else.” Perhaps acknowledging that it didn’t work is where we get stuck. 🙂
I’ll never forget (or forgive) the college professor who, when I asked for clarification on a concept, repeated the same words, asked “do you understand?”, and when I (honestly) replied “no” then screamed the same words at me, screaming, “do you understand?” I did poorly in that class, and to this day, I resent the way a college professor attempted to enhance my understanding. It didn’t work.
Thanks for sharing your story. It’s a warning.
It takes humility to realize other people don’t look at things the same way you see things.
Dan, you’re way off here. It’s silly to threaten something you’re not prepared to carry out. “We’re leaving without you!” Really? I imagine an 8-year-old. You’re really going to leave her alone? We had the same issue with one of our kids. The best solution we found is the 1-2-3- Magic program.
It’s a tough one that requires sacrifice from the leader. At 7 AM, I say, “you’re not ready.” That’s one.” At 7:10, I say, “You’re not ready. That’s two.” At 7:15, I say, “You’re not ready. That’s three!. Go to your room for 30 minutes!”
It’s paradoxical, but the program works. We never had to go to three more than once. Of course, the child wil be late for school and the leader will be late, as well. Consequences. 1-2-3 Magic works better for stop behavior (stop pinching your sister. That’s one.) But it also works for start behavior. Check it out.
Thanks for jumping in today, Jkador. I could think of several reasons why the approach I published wouldn’t work. Competence/ability is an important fact. You bring up age.
I’m with you, I wouldn’t tell an 8 yr old that we’re leaving without them.
On the other hand, life without consequences is meaningless. We all want consequences when we do the right thing. Consequences when we do the wrong thing lets us know that actions/behaviors matter.
I think it’s respectful for us to bring or allow consequences. Anything else is degrading.
Glad you contributed to the conversation and congratulations on finding something that works. I assume when you imagine a 16-year-old you don’t say, “That’s one.” 🙂
Owning it is half the battle. Number #2 is where I have learned to focus conversations with supervisors who are frustrated by repeated behaviors. With adults, obviously the consequences need to be age and position appropriate; however, not waiting to begin a meeting for the perpetually tardy does send a message. Not rescuing failure to plan for contingencies (when possible) gives a powerful reason not to skip that in the future. Number #10 is crucial: “Stick to your word.” I would add one caveat, however: if you are wrong, own it and revise your edict–particularly if it was given in haste. Sticking to “Because I said so” when you know you need to change only makes things FAR worse.
Hi Vaughn. Thanks for adding age and position appropriate. Also, the illustration of being late for meetings is a great example. If your culture is start on time, then start on time.
I find your addition of, “… if you are wrong, own it…” is necessary and brilliant.
The other thing that comes to mind is making room for mercy and grace.
Such a useful column, Dan. Very thought provoking!
I’ve found that asking someone what they think is causing the behavior is a good start to coming up with a solution, together. When they say “I don’t know,” I ask, “well, what if you did know? What do you think might be the reason?” Usually they have an answer then. The conversation can then begin.
I can’t speak to the child example because I don’t have one, but I can speak to solving long-standing lateness issues with colleagues and team members. “I’ve noticed that you are usually late” – avoiding the “always” word which is often a trigger for defensiveness. “Is that something you’ve noticed as well?” is a good follow-up question to see if the other person is aware and will own the problem. That’s probably 80% of the issue. Once someone owns the problem, they usually want to solve it and welcome help. Some don’t and that’s another story. “I’m curious about why you think that’s happening.”
I did this with someone who said she thought she could do “one more thing” and didn’t leave herself enough time to get places. So one solution that was immediately obvious to her was to not do that “one more thing.” Another was to leave earlier. And another was to give herself more time than she thought she needed. At the heart of it, though, was the realization that she was cheating herself of time with me and with other people by being late.
Yes she got that she was being disrespectful of others and that made her feel guilty. But that wasn’t sufficient motivation. The real motivation was her realization that she deserved quality time and to not feel so much stress. She deserved to feel at ease. Which would happen when she was on time. By not judging her and discussing my observation, my noticing, I was able to help her come to that point.
I hear “I don’t know” so often…I never thought of asking what if you did know, then….
also taking ownership “what would you like me to do when you are not in the car by 7:30”
Great post! Useful in developing critical thinking skills at home and at work!
So helpful, Julia. I love the, “If you did know” response.” It’s wonderful to see people offer suggestions after saying, “I don’t know.”
Your observation that she was harming herself is genius. How might being late represent self-defeating behaviors?
I like your response especially the first two paragraphs. I am writing a book that deals the ways parents, teachers, and team leaders use the directing, discussing, and delegating styles to get things dome. I’d like to include some of you comments. If you are interested in learning more, please email me at email@example.com
Paul B. Thornton
Julia, I think getting the employee to buy-in is so important. Let them come up with a solution to the problem. When it is their idea, you will have much more buy-in for the action items that leave that conversation. When an employee asks what they should do or how a situation should get handled, we should always ask them how they would take it or what they suggest. Allowing others to be the problem-solvers makes managing a lot easier. It will enable managers not to use all their bandwidth and be the de facto problem solver for every situation. Good Conversation. Thank you for the post, Dan.
You had me till #9 Provide Instructions. I have found that asking for their input to solve the problem. Then how can I help them achieve the goal.
Practical Application: One of my teenagers was taking too long in the shower. They can up with a solution of turning off the hot water after an agreed set time in the shower. I was more than happy to obliged. It did take twice to solve the issue.
The situation is basic top down management theory. Which has gone the way of drawbridges.
Thanks Art. The cold water approach is a real eye-opener. 🙂
I must confess that #9 is a little tongue-in-cheek. But, it does apply when competence is part of the issue. 🙂 … “How to set an alarm clock,” if taken seriously would insult someone who knew how to set an alarm. I just couldn’t help including some overly basic suggestions.