Kenny’s Communication Rule

Do You Think This Communication Rule Makes Sense?

“If I communicate with you, and you take it in a way other than what I intended, it is my responsibility to communicate again, until you understand what I meant and my intention.  It’s my responsibility.”

“Kenny, can I use that for an article?” I asked as I scrambled for a piece of paper and pen.  I wanted to make sure I got it word for word.

“Where else can you apply this, besides in your marriage?” I asked.

Everywhere!!  If I live by this rule, it has a positive affect with our kids, at work, and in our community too.”

If?” I queried.

“I mean, I will do this. It’s just so important to me – and us.”

Carol and I were debriefing with Kenny and Sue (names changed for confidentiality) after a communication activity during their Relationship Recharge Get-away.  It’s these insights that keep us coaching.

My first thought was to publish Kenny’s statement as the entire article, and if you grabbed onto it and applied it, you would excel in your communications wherever you go.

On second thought, I decided to expand, and put a direct challenge to it, a double-dog-dare-you-to.  Without an explanation, a story, and the challenge, it may be too easy for you to forget.  And Kenny’s Communication Rule is just too important for that.

What is Communication?

Communication is easy, right?  There are really only two components.  I speak and you listen.  Or you speak and I listen.  Easy-schmeasy.

But … you and I know it doesn’t always turn out that way, does it?

Sometimes when I speak, it may not be in a way you understand. Or it may be charged with emotions, or I may generalize details or eliminate necessary information, or negate your feelings.  Or I may do all of those things.  I may have the situation well thought-out in my mind, but you haven’t been a part of those inner conversations – but I might forget that part and think I’ve told you about it already.  Yikes! This isn’t made-up – I’ve done it.  Have you?

And when you listen, something weird may happen.  You may see an expression on my face, hear my tone of voice, or sense I am feeling upset because of my body posture.  Immediately your brain becomes hi-jacked by a wee little villain who recognizes the situation as being similar to a past situation – recently or a long time ago.  And that villain flips through the filing cabinets and photo albums until it finds old dusty pictures and the “incident report”.  The villain determines the current situation will be the same as the past (or worse), so the best recourse is to attack or run as a form of protection.  It’s the fight or flight syndrome.  And a reaction will occur – guaranteed.

If I had applied Kenny’s Communication Rule, it would never get to this.  But if I had a Brain FART (Fleeting Arrest of Respectful Thinking), now would be the time to wake up, grab Kenny’s rule and use it. 


When I recognize your reaction I’ll say in a calm and concerned way, “I’m sorry.  I realize I have done a poor job of my communication.  This is not how I want our relationship to be.  I want us to be able to talk about anything in an open and honest way, striving for understanding and improvement.  Could you please allow me to start again?  My intention this time is to come from a place of respect and love.  I want our conversations to build our relationship.”

Notice there aren’t any words about your behaviour.  It’s my honest and verbal recognition that I need to communicate again with a different approach.   I hope if I approach you this way, you’ll allow me another crack at it.  You would, wouldn’t you?

I’ve never had anyone refuse me.

So the challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to apply Kenny’s Communication Rule in all of your interactions.  Focus on these two parts: 1) clarity of intention, and 2) plan your approach.

1) Just before communicating with another person, stop, take a deep breath, and take a moment to clarify your intention in your mind.

Is your intention to build the relationship or tear it apart?  Those are really the only two options.  I doubt your intention is to do the latter.

Consciously choose to communicate with an intention of respect and love.

2) Take a moment to plan your approach.  Use all parts of your communication mechanism in a way that is congruent with your intention – body, facial expression, tone, and words.

Stand tall and relax your body – be soft.  Smile genuinely, or at least have a neutral expression on your face.  Use a gentle, calm, slow tone of voice.  Be curious.  Ask for the other person’s perspective and listen to understand.  Be willing to honestly share your view, with the intention of coming to understanding, rather than proving you are right or the other person is wrong.

Plan your approach.

Is this easy? Absolutely.  I’m guessing you do this most of the time.  Congratulations!  Yet, in the midst of a Brain FART, this strategy takes extra effort.

I know you have all of the abilities to do this everywhere and every time, personally and professionally.  So I double-dog-dare-you-to apply Kenny’s Communication Rule.

Indelibly imprint the following words in your mind, just above eye level, slightly to the left or right, so all you need to do is close your eyes, look up, and there they are.

“If I communicate with you, and you take it in a way other than what I intended, it is my responsibility to communicate again, until you understand what I meant and my intention.  It’s my responsibility.”

And “PRESTO” Brain FART be-gone!