I think communication is fascinating! I find it so interesting to explore how we communicate with one another, the ways we communicate without using words, the power behind certain tones of voice, and the dynamics between the people doing the communicating.
Whether we’re talking about our daily interactions or stressful situations associated with health concerns and caregiving, we realize the importance of communicating well.
Good communication is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that good communication helps us get what we need while avoiding misunderstandings and added stress.
In the Powerful Tools for Caregivers course, we address the importance of good communication and offer participants helpful techniques that they can apply to their unique situations. Here are two helpful tools:
1) “I messages.”
“I messages” help to set a tone. They allow us to express our needs, responses, and feelings in ways that aren’t filled with blame or shame.
How does this sentence make you feel? You make me so mad! You said that you would help with Mom’s care, but you never ask me if there are things you can do!
Consider how this one comes across differently: I feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I could really use some help with Mom’s care, and I would like to share some specific ideas with you and the rest of our family.
Most of us use “you messages” without even realizing it. What if you do an inventory today and listen to your “I messages” and “you messages?” Do you use one more than another? How do people respond?
2) DESC Model: Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences
Sometimes “I messages” are a great start, but we have more that needs to be said or addressed. One technique that is helpful in these situations is the Nonviolent Communication Technique. Another, which we use in Powerful Tools for Caregivers, is the DESC Model: Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences.
D: Describe observable behavior or problem without emotion. Mom has a lot of therapy appointments and doctor’s appointments coming up this month.
E: Express how you feel: I am feeling overwhelmed because it’s a busy time at work.
S: Specify what needs to happen: I need us to talk about ways that we can share in some of Mom’s care during her recovery.
C: State a consequence: I believe that we can find ways to work together. If you can take Mom to her next two doctor’s appointments, I can take her to her two therapy appointments this month.
This DESC Tool is considered to be an assertive style of communication. It is direct, clear, and straight-forward. This technique can be useful to ask for help, set limits, address difficult decisions, and advocate for another person. Sounds good to me!
Do you have particular situations in which you could use the DESC technique? Consider preparing ahead of time and practicing before you jump in! Using models like these can sometimes feel awkward at first and can take a lot of practice, but they can make a big difference. Here’s a handy print-off to help you prepare. Good luck!