Communication Skills

Encourager or Enabler?

She must have been 6 years old and her sister, Mariel, maybe 2 1/2. They were seated in the row in front of me, with their mother, on the flight home from St. Paul yesterday. Mariel was active all flight and the mother had to tell her time and again to stop, stop, stop, or she wouldn’t get to swim when she got to Phoenix. (It was 42 degrees in Arizona; only someone from Minnesota [-4] would even think of this particular threat.)

During the 2 hour wait to de-board (okay, but really, it felt that long) Mariel decided to pass the time by talking to the 3 of us behind her. The woman in the middle seat (a nice mid-western woman) took the bait. She was chewing gum and Mariel wanted her to make a bubble. She did. “Do it again,” Mariel said. As the woman started to comply, the older sister advised, “Don’t encourage her. She’s one-more-time-Mariel. She’s gonna ask you to do it again, but don’t. Teach her you mean it.”

Whoa! Now I wished I had talked to the 6 year-old all flight. Wise beyond her years. Or maybe she was sick of her mother saying one thing and doing another.

This 6 year old wisdom coincided with my reading Patterson/Grenny/McMillan/Switzler’s book, Crucial Confrontations. The kid got it, and I believe Patterson, et al, would agree. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Do what you say you will. If you say you’ll do it, do it. On time. Right. Without rancor.

If you agree to have the project completed by January 18, it’s your responsibility to have it done by then. No paper in the printer? Find some! No ink? Get some! You said you’d have it done. Someone is depending on you.

Training is scheduled to start at 8:00am, but some of the people who take the bus aren’t in yet. Start anyway. Train them to come in when it’s convenient, and you’re “one-more-time-Mariel” but older. Train them to accept the responsibility of their commitment – to be there for the training (at 8:00am) – and they’ll figure out there are earlier buses.

It’s simply not okay to say one thing and do another.

When you and I take 100% responsibility for giving – and getting – results, we’ll be less likely to settle for less. We’ll spend more time doing and less time excusing, asking for forgiveness, tap dancing. We’ll find a way to help others stick to their word, too, whether that’s making a bubble, or a commitment.

Mariel’s sister wants you to know.

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