Address the Action, Not the Person

Action Meaning Acting Motivation Active Or Proactive

By Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs

My (Donna’s) nuclear family crew have historically not been the greatest of communicators, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings. We have agreed to, and have been actively working on this as a family, and seeing some nice improvements. Even as grown adults, we can all still work to improve in the areas that are troublesome. For us, it includes fully listening, clarification on what we hear, and clearness in the messages we send and speak.

One important rule that we follow, and that I teach to parents and educators, is to make sure that we are addressing the action or the problem to be solved, and not attacking the person. Examples sound like:

  • You’re just lazy, versus, I’m frustrated that the trash wasn’t taken out.
  • You don’t ever listen to me, versus, I really would like to finish what I am saying.
  • You just don’t care about anyone else, versus, I need to feel as though what I say or think matters.

When we address the action and not attack the person, we have a much greater chance of better communication, getting our needs met, and the lessening of conflicts. Try the “I” statement rather than the “You” accusation language and see what happens in your interactions.