Lesson 9 Module 2
Tab 1 Title
Describing a person's observable behaviour without judgement improves communication and relationships. This lesson shows you how to do this.
Tab 3 Title
Why Behaviour Description?
When my father was relaxed and listening intently to a sermon at church or watching a TV show, he often looked as if he was angry. When he was relaxed and focussed on the sermon or TV, he often drifted off into his private thoughts.
The point is that although he looked angry, he wasn't, and he would get upset when people assumed that he was and ask "Why are you angry?"
This is why Behaviour Description is a neccessary skill.
I don't know about you, but I do not like people assuming to know what I am feeling. When we presume to know the speaker's intention or emotional state, we are making an inference. When we reach a conclusion based on what we believe or assume to be accurate, that is when we can get into trouble.
But making an assumption is impossible to avoid. I mean, we can see the person's expression. Their facial muscles may have tightened, their lips compressed together, and the colour of their skin may change.
So., at times, it is necessary to give the person feedback on what you are observing without offending them or claiming that you are a mind reader.
To do this, we use the skill of Behaviour Description because it helps us to make sure that what we assume to be true is also true for the speaker.
Behaviour Description has three goals
1. To help us close the gap between what we assume and actual behaviour.
I was at a party, and after speaking with a new friend for a few minutes, she said, "you keep shuffling your weight from one foot to the other. Don't you want to talk to me?"
She had made an assumption, but by describing my behaviour and her guess, I had the opportunity to explain.
Not at all. Years ago, I had an accident, and my leg was severely injured. It still causes some discomfort, so I shift my weight from one leg to the other to get some relief.
2. To coach the speaker to describe the behaviours that caused them to make the inference they had.
When you mentioned the club, I noticed that you clenched your fists and your face muscles tightened, which leads me to think that you may still be upset about what the incident last week? Is that right?
3. To point out incongruence in the speaker's communication.
"When I asked how you were you said, 'I'm fine'. But your voice was flat, and I get the impression that maybe something isn't quite right. Is that true?"
Instead of making an assumption, use the skill of Behaviour Description to describe the speaker's public behaviour. Many people are unaware of how they look and sound because we all sound like we feel.
We broadcast our emotional state with our body language, including the quality and tone of our voice.
When we observe and describe specific behaviour, then the communication remains open.
You don't want to talk to me!
Statements such as 'you don't want to talk to me' or 'you're angry' are accusations based on an assumption you have made.
People usually respond to an accusation by becoming defensive and, if they are angry, then you may bear the brunt of that anger, and the communication can come to an end.
Describe specific observable behaviours
So, like the perception check, the Behaviour Description is when you describe specific visible actions and feedback to the speaker what you have seen.
For example, when you were speaking about the incident with Jim last week, I noticed that you clenched your fists and your face muscles became tight which leads me to wonder if you're still upset about what he said. Is that right?
Our voices have a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation that expresses some meaning.
You'll find some documents and links that give you comprehensive lists of words that will help you describe the voice and body language you observe.
Behaviour Description is rarely used in isolation. We usually combine it with skills such a perception Check, Story Listening, and Productive Questions, which leads us into the next video - Curiosity Questions.
A list of words that describe behaviour
More words from the Macmillan Dictionary
Visit this website for information on the Components of behaviour
Download this research article The Impact of Personal Experience on Behavior:
Food for thought.
Is all human behaviour determined from past experiences?