The Art of Information Exchange

Spring has begun in Scottsdale and I was feeling extra happy in the warm sun, wearing a bright yellow dress that reflected my happy mood. Walking across a parking lot, a woman touched my shoulder and said, “Cute dress!”

“Thank you!” I smiled and replied. “It’s actually on sale right now…” I continued, giving her the store name; the location in Scottsdale; the other things she would find on the rack when she walked in and went to the left and then about 10 steps toward the back; the ease with which it could be washed without any need for ironing; the teal and red colors that were also available; and the added information that a coupon was available for download for an additional 10 percent off.

“I have to stop you,” the woman laughed, “I have the same yellow dress hanging in my closet!”

There’s an art of information exchange. What works best is a reciprocal flow of information that matches what the person wants to know. In this case, I missed the intent of her complimenting our equally good taste in yellow dresses and provided a ridiculous amount of detail on something she already knew.

In working with people trying to change, in providing education, and even in responding to compliments, it’s a good idea to demonstrate some restraint until you find out someone’s interest in and willingness to hear whatever information you may be able to provide.

Next time I will try a simple, “Thank you!”

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.