Healthy relationships rely on effective communication strategies. The most effective communicators are also good listeners (Zemke et al 2000). With objective communication a relationship is based on respect not power, manipulation, or punishment. Below are objective communication examples. Effective communication tactics enable us to be better listeners while we help our client’s achieve their goals.


  • Listen with full attention, eye contact and body language
  • Acknowledge feelings with a word
  • Give their feelings a name. Reflect back their feelings
  • Give them their wishes in fantasy
  • Start with an empathetic word (“this is tough/sad/too bad”) and then ask gently, “what are you going to do?” or “What can you do?”
  • Deliver empathy and state the limit


  • Non-productive: blaming and accusing, name calling, threats, commands, lectures and moralizing, warnings, playing the martyr, comparing, sarcasm, prophesying, questions, bribing/cajoling
  • Encouraging: describe the problem, give information, give choices, say it with a word, talk about feelings, write a note, change if/then to when/then, use ‘after’ (we will…), sing, use modified threats


  1. Point out ways to be helpful
  2. Express strong disapproval
  3. State expectations
  4. Show the individual how to make amends
  5. Offer a choice
  6. Describe consequences


  1. Listen to the individuals feelings and needs
  2. Summarize their point of view
  3. Express their feelings and needs
  4. Invite them to brainstorm to find a solution
  5. Write down all the ideas without evaluating
  6. Decide together which ideas like/don’t like and how to plan the course of action


  • Give choices
  • Show respect for struggle
  • Encourage individuals to think of their own answers
  • Don’t ask too many questions
  • Show respect for the individual’s eventual readiness
  • Let them dream
  • Don’t talk about the individual when they can overhear


  • Evaluative (ie: good girl, nice work, terrific) is empty, gives a fleeting sense of well-being
  • Descriptive paints a picture of capabilities, talents, character, and accomplishments, consists of two skills: describe what you see, and describe what you feel (ie: I like the way you used the black border around the pink. It really makes the pink color pop out)
  • Sum it up in a word (ie: that’s called being mature)
  • Point out what is right and what still needs to be done
  • Reinforce effective praise by asking yourself: what quality do I like best about my ____? What has _____done recently that I can praise ______ for? How can I show my appreciation by using the skills of descriptive praise?


  • Look for opportunities to give an individual a new picture of him/herself
  • Put an individual in a situation where he/she may see themselves differently
  • Let the individual overhear you say something positive about him/her
  • Model the behavior you would like to see
  • Remind the individual of their past accomplishments
  • If an individual insists on behaving according to an old label, state your expectations


  • Was there a role you were placed as a child?
  • How did it affect you?
  • Is there a negative role in which you are inadvertently placing ____?
  • How does that impact on your time together?
  • Is there a more positive label you can use to describe their behavior?


  • defiant | courageous, bold
  • hyper | high energy
  • quiet | thoughtful, inner-directed
  • clingy | connected, bonded
  • tattletale | justice seeker
  • stubborn | focused, committed, determined
  • fussy about details | discriminating
  • talks back | courageous, honest
  • finicky eater | future gourmet
  • dawdles | creative, observant
  • slow poke | deliberate
  • nosey | high curiosity
  • naughty | likes attention, persistent
  • mouthy | expressive, assertive
  • spoiled | loved
  • mean | power seeker
  • crabby | speaks out needs
  • sneaky | inventive, creative
  • compulsive | efficient
  • silly | fun loving
Zemke R, Raines C, Filipcak B. Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in your Workplace. New York: AMACOM, 2000.

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