Monday, May 08, 2006

Three part messages: changing behavior of others

I was going to write on three-part messages, but Ozarque covered it perfectly. Try this in person or on-line with anyone who isn't a troll.

Perfect three-part messages are composed entirely of things about which no rational person could argue. [If the person you're interacting with isn't rational, that's a different problem, and beyond the scope of this brief post.] My favorite perfect example is this one, already familiar to you:

"When you don't water the tomatoes, I feel angry, because plants die without water."

Part one ("When you don't water the tomatoes....") is the one specific behavior you want changed. Unless you're also irrational you won't be saying that unless the person really has failed to water the tomatoes. It's verifiable in the real world, and it contains no judgmental or subjective chunks of the sort that "When you don't do your fair share of the garden work" would. It's a valid part one.

Part two ("I feel angry...") is the weakest part of the three-part message in terms of the requisite real-world verifiability. English allows dialogues in which one person says "I feel tired/sick/angry/whatever" and another person can acceptably, although rudely, say back "Oh, you do not!" When properly constructed, however, it's verifiable in the sense that it is (a) appropriate for the context in which it's spoken, and (b) backed up by the speaker's body language, including intonation and tone of voice. It's conceivable, though unlikely, that it may be challenged with "Oh, you do not feel angry!"; if that happens, the appropriate response is just to repeat the original three-part message even more sincerely.

Part three ("because plants die without water") is the hardest part of the three-part message to construct. Its function is to say why it's your perception that you are justified in making the request for a change in behavior. To be valid, it must also be concrete, verifiable in the real world, and not subject to rational argument. "Plants die without water" meets those specifications. None of the following alternatives would qualify:

"....because it's not fair for you to leave all the work for other people."
"....because you're just being lazy."
"....because a decent person would do their share of the chores."

Any of the three unacceptable alternatives might well be true, and justified. That's irrelevant. They don't qualify as a valid part three for a three-part message.

click on the link above for the rest of the discussion. I couldn't ask for a better cover of the topic than if she had done it for me as a special favor.


Tigersue said...

Thanks for your comment on my LDS Women's blog list. It may be a list of Ladies blogs, but hopefully there are some that are interesting for everyone! After all I have seen you on many of the sites listed. :)
Have a good day.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to see how well I can put this into play with rational people =)

I think this may be a construction formula that will make it faster & easier for me to communicate my point. More succinct, less periphrastic! Gotta be a good thing...