When Talking No Longer Works, Stop Talking

Are family members letting what you say go in one ear and out the other? The best way to command respect, attention and appreciation might be to stop talking and halt action.

Discover How a "One Person Strike" Can Effectively Solve Certain Types of Family Challenges

If you've said it once, you've said it a thousand times. You've tried saying it at different times and in different ways. You've been clear, direct and forthright have taken the concerns of others into consideration and still you're not getting what you want. You have said it softly and you've said it loudly -- and still nothing has changed. 

Why isn't she listening? Doesn't he hear me? What part doesn't she get? How many times and in how many different ways can I say it? Why can't I get my point across? If what I wanted mattered, he would listen to me! And round and round you go.

The problem may be not that your loved one doesn't hear you but rather that he or she is not feeling the effects of what you're saying. You may be 'saying it like you mean it' but the listener has to feel the effects of your words in a very direct  and experiential way so that your desires, wishes, needs can't be missed, overlooked or ignored. 

The idea that 'less is more' is an expression that has application outside the fashion industry. Sometimes saying less and doing less can be a much more effective communication tool than finding the right words and saying it numerous different ways. If done correctly, less talking (combined with less effort and/or a new action or even no action at all) can effectively turn a situation around and get you more of what you want in your relationships.

She Got What She Wanted Not By Doing More, But By Doing Less

Here is a story of a clever wife and mother who very effectively got what she wanted from her family by doing very little. In fact, rather effortlessly, and by implementing what I call the "One Person Strike" her desires were efficiently communicated and responded to in a way that pleased her. She achieved this utilizing very few words and very little (but cleverly and strategically orchestrated) maneuvers.

The woman I am referencing happens to be a fabulous cook. Both her husband and her son love her cooking! Not only do her husband and son enjoy the meals she prepares, but also she loves to cook for them! She takes great pleasure in knowing that her family enjoys and appreciates her cooking talent and efforts. Talk about a win-win!

However, what was becoming a too-familiar scene in their household was the fact that each evening when she entered the kitchen to prepare dinner she would constantly find a huge mess. Her husband and her son left dirty dishes, half-filled glasses and unwashed pots and pans everywhere.

The kitchen was no longer a place of culinary inspiration but rather a place she wanted to avoid. Night after night she spent too much time cleaning up after the mess made by her husband and son before she could begin cooking. She was growing resentful and angry. She expressed her frustrations over and over -- and then louder and louder -- "I love to cook flavorful and healthy meals for our family but not when I spend so much cleaning up after the two of you before I can even get started!" Despite these verbal protestations nothing seemed to change.

She then took a clear and firm stance and let the sloppy kitchen visitors know that she will refrain from cooking should she enter a dirty kitchen. If her husband and son want  her to prepare the meals that they enjoy so much they would have to clean up after themselves before she would be willing to begin meal preparation.

For about two weeks all went well. Her husband and son consistently cleaned up after themselves in the kitchen and she continued to prepare and present fabulous meals that they all enjoyed.

However, at about the third week or so, the old-habits returned. Spills that were not tended to, half-eaten food scattered about and piles of dirty dishes, pots and pans began to creep back on the scene.

What was different this time was that she didn't say a word. 

Instead of cleaning up the mess and feeling angry and resentful (as she had done so many times before) she left the mess in the kitchen and quietly and calmly made her way to the living room. She found a comfortable place on the sofa, put her feet up, picked up her favorite novel and began reading and relaxing.

It wasn't long before it was dinnertime and her hungry and tired husband and son found their way to the kitchen. They were ready to feast! When they walked in, however, they did not smell the appetizing aroma of their favorite meal in the oven. Instead they saw piles of dirty dishes, pots, pans and remnants of half-eaten food in the otherwise empty kitchen.

When her husband and her son found her reading quietly on the sofa they looked puzzled and confused, "Where's dinner? We're starving!"

She looked up at them with great composure and calm, smiled politely and replied, "I don't cook in a dirty kitchen." Then she cast her eyes downward and resumed reading without uttering another word.

Her husband and son "got it" this time because they felt what she said. The connection between their hungry bellies and the mess in the kitchen could not be any more evident.

This clever wife and mother asserted herself with clarity, dignity and calm. She stood firm on her demands: she will not cook in a dirty kitchen. Brilliantly and strategically -  by doing less and not more - she got her point across where words had failed before.

Isn't the "One Person Strike" Just a Version of the More Familiar "Silent Treatment?"

"The Silent Treatment" and the "One-Person Strike" have very little in common.

The silent treatment is contemptuous and ineffective, in part, because it results in confusion and not clarity. It can be viewed as a form of emotional and verbal abuse is often used as a tactic of manipulation. The silent treatment often results in silent treatment "targets" feeling unimportant, unloved, hurt, confused, frustrated and angry.

Being silent is a reactive way of withholding emotional engagement and is akin to the less mature behaviors such as sulking and pouting. The silent one shuts out loved ones and is often viewed as cruel because it is a form of emotional withholding. Similar to 'the silent treatment' would be the use of words and phrases like  "I don't care" or "whatever" or rolling your eyes or smirking. The use of the silent treatment comes from a position of weakness and is a type of emotional cop-out.

By contrast, the strategic and deliberate "One Person Strike" is emotionally engaging and requires taking a definitive stance. The solo-striker is not befuddled or confused by they own feelings or desires, but instead is very clear about their objective, stance and position. The solo-striker is not behaving angrily or out-of-control -- but instead is rather poised, self-respecting, in-control and is communicating a clear, direct and forthright message. The solo-striker is engaging in an act of resistance designed to elicit specific behaviors from another where circular and fruitless dialogue has failed. "One Person Strike" is pro-active.

When and How to Employ Domestic Strike-Action

When labor negotiations and talks fail "striking" is often the last and most potent tactic implemented. The same holds true on the domestic strike within the home. Do make every effort to verbally communicate your needs in different ways and with care -- but when that fails after numerous and tiresome attempts with arguments increasing, become circular and seemingly endless -- consider domestic strike-action.

Additionally, if a feeling of resentment or a sense of being 'taken for granted' is becoming commonplace, consider this approach. 

When striking, it's important to refrain from 'over-explaining' or tirelessly 'convincing' others about your position. Instead, calmly and directly state your position in a clear, simple sentence using as few words as possible.

To conduct an effective strike, stop arguing about the issue. In fact, just stop talking about it completely. The time for talking (and negotiating, begging, pleading and arguing) is over. Instead demonstrate a quiet, calm, cool, steady and composed demeanor. It's important to take a stance which is firm, determined and unwavering. You are in the driver's seat.

When you strike, others may want to provoke you back into the useless and tiresome old argument. Don't! Just keep calmly restating a well-crafted short, simple and clear sentence. You are 'on strike' until your terms are met. Family members have to feel the consequences of your strike action and see the correlation between your refusal to act and their behaviors.

When behaviors have altered and the response you sought is evident, you have emerged victorious with everyone's esteem and self-respect intact because this healthy method of inspiring change has been successfully implemented. 

Well done!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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