Communication Rituals

   Many books have been written on the benefits of rituals. Healthy family rituals can offer stability; meaningful love rituals may enhance trust; well-managed company rituals can serve as motivators and morale boosters.

Communication choices also can become ritualized; i.e. we may respond in the same way to repetitive situations.

 Example:  I recently was in the grocery store and watched a young father manage a discussion with his little daughter:

 Dad: “Make sure you stay seated in the shopping cart.”

 Daughter: (playing with the cart’s steering wheel) “Why?”

 Dad: “Why do you think?”

 Daughter: “I don’t know.”

 Dad:  (reviewing his grocery list) “Because you don’t want to fall out of the cart and get hurt.”

 And off they went.

 I have a hunch a similar exchange has happened between this father and daughter many times before.  While I appreciate the dad’s choice to engage his daughter’s thinking (“Why do you think?”), the response he received sent a signal from the daughter that she has ritualized the word, “Why?” It’s what she says when she is given direction.

 So, if Dad woke up to this ritual, he could ask himself, “Is what I’m doing getting the results I want?”  If the answer is no, he will need to do something else.  And doing something else can be as simple as changing a few words and vocal tones:

 Dad: “Make sure you stay seated in the shopping cart.”

 Daughter: (playing with the cart’s steering wheel) “Why?”

 Dad: (giving his daughter direct eye contact) “Let’s think about why. I have a thought, but you start. What’s one idea you can think of for staying seated in the cart?”

 Two lessons:

1. Don’t keep doing that which doesn’t work. Try something else.

2. Small changes may get you the results you desire.

This entry was posted in Interpersonal Communication, Nonverbal Behavior, Tone. Bookmark the permalink.

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