When my husband and I first moved to California a few years ago I was feeling vulnerable. Really vulnerable.
We came here because he'd been promoted. Me? I was jobless.
Having just come off of my highfalutin executive position (I told myself it was, at least) I had to face the fact that I was now pretty unimportant. I was also definitively, desperately needy for human contact.
I was able to fill the mornings okay, but by mid-afternoon it was all over. I was antsy. I was anxious. I was... cranky. I realized I needed an emotional hand from hubbie. And so I told him so.
I told him the afternoons were torture for me, that I needed to talk with someone, that I would love to hear from him if he got the chance. The next day... he didn't call. The anxiety and crankiness reached new levels.
But then I realized what I'd done wrong. So that evening I said the following to him:
"You know, by about 2:30 in the afternoon I've reached my emotional limit and I feel very lonely. So I need you to call me at that time and just check in for a few minutes."
The next day... he called. Right at 2:30.
Why did he do it? Not because he all of a sudden cared more. Not because he'd grown smarter or I'd grown telepathic in the last 24 hours. He did it because I'd used a critical communication tool. And I can boil it down to words:
Being explicit means stating what you need, what you want and what you expect... clearly (and nicely when at all possible). It means leaving nothing implied. Nothing to chance.
Why does this increase your odds of getting what you want? Two reasons.
Reason #1: We talk differently
We all have different histories and perspectives. As a result, we define things differently.
I had a staff member who told me she was "overwhelmed" every time I saw her. And so I'd spend all kinds of time trying to help her through it. Yet no matter what we took off of her plate she continued to say she was overwhelmed.
It didn't make any sense to me until I realized we were defining the word differently.
To her, overwhelmed meant "busy". Me? I use the word only when I feel like my world is about to come crashing down.
The problem is even though we define words differently we assume the other person automatically knows what we mean by them and what we want as a result. And they don't.
Reason #2: We hint... and it doesn't work
We love to hint. We love subtext. We use it every day, often without even knowing it.
- We use the tone of our voice to emphasize whether we're being serious or sarcastic.
- We tell staff we want them to review the dress code when we really want them to stop wearing flip flops to the office.
- We tell our friends that we're tired of people disrespecting our time when we really want them to stop arriving to our lunches 20 minutes late.
We hint, and then we get frustrated when we don't get what we want.
Truth is, if you use subtext and expect people to give you what you want, you're not just being unreasonable. You're also being unfair.
Want to get more of what you want in 2014? Be explicit.
I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.