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Apply the T.H.I.N.K. S.M.A.R.T. ruleset for honest and constructive communication. Each letter represents a rule of thumb:

  • Is it True, or is it your personal opinion?  Say “This is how I feel…” vs “This is the way it is…”  Explaining your anger instead of just expressing it.
  • Is it Helpful or hurtful?  Choose your words wisely, using healthy and helpful ways to convey your message.
  • Is it Inspiring or undermining?  Make sure you’re aspiring to create a healthy and constructive outcome with what you’re saying.
  • Is it Necessary or non-essential? Is it something that might not bother you anymore tomorrow, or five days from now?  Is it worth bringing up right now?
  • Is it Kind or inconsiderate?  Take into account the timing of your intervention, Is it the right place? In front of the proper audience? Is your listener under a lot of stress at the time?
  • Be Specific for without specific details you and your listener are likely to misunderstand each other.  The less specific you are, the less likely you are to create the relationship you want, or get what you want. Think about your desires and needs, and be careful not to assume important information. ( I want an apple vs I want a Golden Delicious apple; it’s your turn to wash the dishes vs. it’s your turn to wash the dishes, dry them and put them away; I have a meeting from 2-4pm that I cannot miss vs. I have a meeting 2-4pm that I cannot miss so I would love it if you can make sure children are not too noisy during that time)
  • Define your Motive. What effects do you want to produce by saying what you’re saying?
  • Adapt not only your message (choosing words wisely) but the style of your communication to your listener. For example, slowing down your own speech can help slow down your partner’s, without having to say ‘slow down!’. It can be wise to adapt your rhythm to that of your listener, to make the conversation flow more smoothly. Adaptation also means considering your partner’s point of view, even if it is different from your own. This will allow you a greater opportunity to be compassionate with their position in life.
  • Repeat and reinforce to assess the clarity of your conversation.  “Can we agree upon…?; Are you happy and comfortable with this arrangement?”  Repetition provides an opportunity for correction.
  • Time out. Sometimes, no matter what you try, the conversation takes a downward turn and negative emotions may get the overhand. If that happens, the best thing to do is to take a time out. Find a polite way to continue the discussion later, so you can do so in a clearheaded and respectful way.

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