Last time I posted a little story I wrote for a contest and asked you all if you could see any communication skills lessons in it.

“Jody” wrote that she would have liked me to have Mom and Iris to look into why Dad was so negative and grumpy. That was a good insight because “Why?” is our first magic question for uncovering the interests and concerns driving a person’s behavior and positions. These insights show us how to appeal to them, and thus, build consensus.

Unfortunately, the contest requires a story I can read aloud at an event in 5 minutes or less, and the story I posted was already at that limit. Otherwise, I would have disclosed Dad’s backstory.

Iris’s Skills

However, little Iris and her mom used some good skills. At this point, I want to emphasize that I did not write the story to illustrate skills (or lack thereof). I was only focused on coming up with a good story that makes it into the event. Only then did it occur to me to look for lessons in the story and blog about it. (This was also the case with the stories in my book Love on the Rocks with a Twist.)

Iris asked open questions to settle down Santa’s elf Crinkle and learn about his backstory. When she first encounters him, he threatens to bite off her toe if she doesn’t get her feet out of his “bed” (her Christmas stocking). She asks, “Who are you?” Sadly, he tells her his name used to be Crinkle, but now it’s Crumple.

Iris follows up with another open question, “How did that happen?” This draws out Crinkle’s story about how some jealous elves laughed about changing his name to Crumple after they caused him to be trampled by a reindeer and turned into a ghost. No wonder he was a little edgy. But when Iris showed interest in his concerns, he began to warm to her

Then she was able to console and support him, and his mood improved. She had won a friend, who later took up her cause when Dad tried to stifle her “magical thinking,” (although Crinkle did this in a more physical way than I would recommend in real life).

Mom’s Skills

Wisely, Mom doesn’t slam down Iris’s belief in Crinkle. She goes along with it. This will make it easier for Mom to get Iris to take a break from Crinkle when it’s time to do something else, like go to bed, in the future. For example, she could say something like, “Crinkle’s getting sleepy. Why don’t you give him a break and get some sleep too.”

This is akin to another consensus building/persuasion skill. When another person says something we think is wrong, our impulse is to tell them so, stomp down on that idea before it can go any further. But this only makes the other person more inclined to argue their point. Far better if we can find some aspect of their point we can agree with and say so. This increases the chance that they will settle down and listen to our point.

You can read more about these and other skills in my books Bridges to Consensus and Love on the Rocks with a Twist.

Even better, you can practice, and thus assimilate, these and other skills through hands-on training with me as your coach. Please contact me at: Or ask me a question in the comments section below.


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