By Dr. John Mark Froiland
I originally became interested in researching inspirational and autonomy supportive communication because it has a powerful potential to help children love learning, reduce anxiety and depression, increase motivation to help others and increase happiness (Froiland, 2014; Froiland, 2011; Froiland, 2015). Inspirational communication entails conveying warmth, using parables or analogies to help someone see learning or healthy behaviors in a new way, explaining your passion for a healthy habit and many other science-based components (see Froiland, 2014 for all 22 Inspirational Motivational Style techniques).
Recently when I was presenting at a symposium in Philadelphia about this type of research, an audience member asked if I think parents are becoming happier themselves when communicating this way. My answer to this astute question was essentially, “Yes, but it’s time to do more intervention research on this topic.” Usually, research on autonomy supportive communication focuses on how it helps students, patients and employees become more creative, happy, healthy and successful. However, in one of my recent studies, I found that parents learning to be more inspirational reported more joyful experiences with their children, less power struggles, deeper bonding and a rekindling of their own interest in lifelong learning (Froiland, 2015; Froiland, 2014).
Inspirational communication includes being more mindful and creative about what you say, when you say it and how you say it. Sometimes you only need to alter a few words to begin to inspire someone (e.g., “You have to get in shape or you may develop cardiovascular disease!” vs. “When I started exercising more, I found that I had more energy to do the things I love”). I have found that some adults really like just taking a deep cleansing breath before formulating their responses to friends, family and fellow employees. Others prefer to listen to the other person more, show empathy, then patiently wait until they’re inspired to share an insight with the person they want to help.
These types of interactions build trust, stronger relationships and are more satisfying. I’m also finding that they promote happiness. Thus, being mindful and having science-based communication tools helps you to be happier also. Recent studies keep finding that intrinsic motivation and happiness are contagious! When you use a communication style that promotes the happiness and well-being of others, you are likely to become happier.
Froiland, J. M. (2014). Inspired Childhood: Parents Raising Motivated, Happy, and Successful Students from Preschool to College. Seattle, Washington: Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LT4OX5O
Froiland, J. M. (2015). Parents’ weekly descriptions of autonomy supportive communication: Promoting children’s motivation to learn and positive emotions. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 117-126. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-013-9819-x
Froiland, J. M. (2011). Parental autonomy support and student learning goals: A preliminary examination of an intrinsic motivation intervention. Child and Youth Care Forum, 40(2), 135-149. http://www.springerlink.com/content/c801555417m37777/
John Mark Froiland is an author, psychology professor, international keynote speaker, and human developmental scientist. You can connect with him on Twitter at Dr. Happiness @DrJohnMFroiland