Three Little Words That Say “I Love You”

Researchers have found that people use four key styles of responding to the good news of another person. Imagine that your child has just told you their coach says they are going to start in the next game, or are invited to a friend’s party. That’s epic! Think about how you could respond to them:

“That’s great.” (It’s polite but ends the conversation. Game over.)

“You’ll be sorry.” (Points out why the good news might be bad. Makes you sound critical.)

“I got new shoes.” (Shows you are off-topic. Makes you seem distracted and self-interested.)

“Tell me more.” (Keeps the conversation going! Lets the person know you are interested!)

You may already use this when someone else, perhaps another adult, shares good news. Research consistently shows that people feel cared for and more connected to others when a listener (you) responds in a way that gets the person who is sharing good news (your friend) to tell even more about the event. Using the “Tell Me More” response style actually predicts the positive strength of a relationship.

But what about challenges, you ask? One way to show others that you care is using that same “Tell Me More” response. In my experience, it also works to help people talk about a challenge as well as a win. When you can listen to someone without judgment, and with compassionate curiosity (even when you may want to swoop in and save them!), you help to facilitate a conversation rather than a potentially impulsive or angry solution.

Turning down anger and worry this way has a few benefits.

  1. Your child will know you are listening to them and willing to take the time to hear more.
  2. Your child may be able, with your help, to sort through their own feelings and solutions. This is often the only way to find it out: Try it out.
  3. You can collect more information about the context of your child’s challenge and help them to discover their own strengths to resolve conflicts and move ahead.

You can use “Tell Me More” with anyone, and both of you can gain well-being and relationship benefits, including renewed optimism and a more resilient and expansive mindset. How’s that working for you? Tell me more.

About the author

Sherri Fisher, MEd, MAPP, executive coach and learning specialist, uncovers client motivation and focus for perseverance. She has decades of successful experience working with students, parents, and professionals who face learning, attention, and executive function challenges at school, home, and work.

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