Communication Tip:

Originally written by Kerry for tutorial reference material, rewritten for Communication Weekly.

Creating a context for delivering a potentially upsetting communication


You’ve just dented the new family car. Your dad has a “short fuse” and gets screaming–angry quite easily so you dread having to tell him. What's needed is to create a context to help your dad be-with and process the upsetting information with the least amount of anger and dramatization.

“Context” here is referred to as creating space for communication to take place; or, creating a basket into which you put content.

For example:

You could create a context by preparing his mind, such as, "I’ve got something to tell you. I’m afraid you’re going to get angry and be mad at me and yell and scream. [insert any other fears/considerations that you can think of]. Is this a good time?” Depending upon the message you could ask him to sit down which immediately communicates importance. If he refuse, then you could say, "Perhaps I should wait until you have some sit-down time? It's quite important."

Even if you’ve done this very same trick with him before (creating a context, a basket into which you deliver a difficult communication) it doesn’t matter. It always works. His (the) mind, to be right, will do its best to not fulfill your prediction; it does what it usually does automatically which is to make you wrong, in this case to make sure your prediction doesn’t come true. The worst that can happen is that he will interrupt your prelude with, "Yah yah. What is it this time? Just tell me."

In brief, create a basket with your considerations and fears and then deliver a difficult communication. It works.

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 1/4/17)


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