The 3 Approaches to Communication: Care-less, Care-ful, and Caring

The alternative to win-lose or lose-win thinking is win-win thinking.  Win-win thinking is to look for mutually positive outcomes in every one of life’s situations.  Instead of thinking “my way is best” or “your way is best”, there is a third “our way is best” solution.

Let’s take a closer look at 3 ways to communicate.  The first way is “care-less” communication, when we believe that we are right and others are wrong. In the adversarial world in which we live, most people communicate carelessly or without care for others, much of the time.

The second way is “care-ful” communication. To contrast it with the care-less approach, it happens when we are so concerned not to upset the other person that we allow their values to trump ours. Communicating in this mode is like walking on eggshells.  Both care-less and care-ful approaches lead to breakdowns in communication.

But there is a third way, which avoids communication breakdown and that is the caring approach. In caring, you esteem your value system and the other person’s value system simultaneously. It’s like saying, “My values are right for me and yours are right for you and that’s OK. To work together, we can always find a way to honor what each of us believes and wants, without becoming negative and disrespectful.

The Third Way of Communicating: A Simple Example

Say you’ve been out shopping with your teenage daughter.  You’re tired and hungry and your daughter says she’d like to buy a pizza for a snack. The critical nurturing parent in you knows that bought pizzas contain empty nutrients, and are expensive. So how do you move towards the third way of communicating?

The key moves are firstly to acknowledge your daughter’s request; secondly to value her wishes; and thirdly to find a win-win solution that honors both your values and hers in a caring way.

So you say, “You want a pizza? I am hungry too! What say we go home and make a smoothie?”

The most important step is assertiveness – you are offering a solution.  You are not saying “No” and closing the door to communication.  You are not saying “Yes” and caving in to other’s wishes.  If this part makes you uncomfortable, then you will need practice.

Caring and respect for others is appropriate for both home and work situations.  Win-win negotiations are highly regarded as an important life skill and work skill.  Keep the 3 Approaches in mind next time you hit a roadblock or disagree with someone.

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a Meeting Facilitator and Business Event Coordinator with Stop the Presses!