STRONGER TOGETHER: The TED talk no one wants to hear

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Last updated: 07/08/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses using the Situation-Behaviour-Impact model to handle difficult conversations.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Those who know me are aware of my love for buying weekend papers, grabbing a coffee, and sitting on our deck to enjoy the content. As expected, I skip straight over the stuff of least relevance, including Dr Judith Locke’s parenting articles given that my kids are now adults and there is no hint of grandchildren on the horizon. But last weekend was different, and as much as I love Dr Locke’s work, the article’s headline caught my attention.

'When the parent TED talk falls on deaf ears' jumped out at me from the page. Probably because it was me to a T - every word. The well-prepared speeches we used to have in the kitchen or on the way to school or swimming. To me, those small gems of useful information shared with the kids were informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring, just like a good TED talk should be. They came from a place of good intention – a genuine belief that it might motivate them to make different choices.

TED talks are designed to motivate people into different ways of behaving and thinking. As parents, we only want the best for our kids therefore we use these talks to guide and assist, while leaning into the idea that as they get older, we will step back and support them to make their own choices. Continually nurturing and encouraging, with the odd parent TED talk peppered in. The penny will eventually drop and they’ll thank me for it one day, won’t they?

The reality of the experience for my kids when I launched into manifestos like ‘not doing your homework will limit your future choice of jobs’ was closer to ‘Blah, blah, blah, limit, blah, blah, blah, future.’ And they have certainly never thanked me for it.

Is the experience any different for adults? People locking in on and firing off their own ‘gems’ of personal advice to family, friends, and work colleagues, perhaps even with the occasional emotionally loaded statement woven in for extra effect. Do we genuinely believe that this is the key to creating change and getting a different outcome?

But is there a better way?

As adults, we often find it challenging to have conversations with others if we fear they may view it as confrontational. Instead, we look for other ways to ‘soften the blow’ and may resort to storytelling to inspire and motivate the necessary change.

What if we tried a less is more approach and found a way to create a shortcut between intention and impact? What would this look like in practice?

If we used the Centre for Creative Leadership’s Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI) model, we would start by describing the situation or issue, highlighting why it is a problem. ‘Two weeks ago, you accepted the invitation to attend last night’s mandatory staff training session held at 6pm that covered important changes to our practice.’

We would go on to outline the behaviour that was witnessed (remember, stick with the facts). ‘As you chose not to attend, you were not trained in the current standards that come into effect next month.’

Finally, the impact. We need to be clear on the consequences that will result from their decision. ‘You will therefore no longer be eligible to provide services until you have successfully completed the training. Unfortunately, your hours with our service will be reduced as a result.’

Similar to Dr. Locke’s advice, whether for adults or children, we must clearly articulate the problem, the necessary behaviour change, and the consequences. In some cases, like our kids, the adult will only hear ‘blah, blah, blah, accepted, blah, blah, blah, changes.’

For these people, the necessary change will therefore only ever happen once they experience a consequence for their choices. Believe me, they won't thank you for it. It is hoped, however, that it will inspire a sense of ownership and accountability, and the opportunity to reflect on how things could be done differently in the future.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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