My husband thinks he’s a better driver than me. So, what does that make him? A terrible back seat driver.
For years, the routine has been that when I was driving he would pound his foot on the floor (to help me brake), scare me with words like “stop” or “watch out!” or advise me of how close I was away from the curb. the car, the dog, etc. I would get mad, he would continue and we would both end up upset and frazzled.
Now, before he gets to be my passenger, we take the time to go over some ground rules.
Establishing ground rules in a conversation can be a powerful way to communicate clearly by making your expectations known ahead of time. It gives some structure to help you with one of the most common communication mistakes we all make – not making our needs clear. In the case of my backseat driver, setting some ground rules helps me to be clear right up front of what I need and expect.
And, yes, it really does work. In fact the odds of success are pretty great. When you clearly state what you need and want, you are 70% more likely to get it!
My back seat ground rules usually go something like this (and don’t forget to be kind and respectful in your delivery):
1) You can only make scary noises or point if you truly believe our lives are in danger.
2) You can not reach out to take the steering wheel, or stomp your foot on the floor, again, unless you truly believe our lives are in danger.
Then, I clarify, more specifically what that looks like:
It means you can speak up if:
- I am really going to hit a car; not if a car is in the vicinity of our car, or you think I should give them more room.
- You truly don’t think I see an impending car crash.
- Take the time to clearly state what you want and expect to have happen.
- Then follow-up with a check for understanding.
Be careful out there and make your expectations clear!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. And, it’s now available on Kindle! Check it out.