People are lovely, mostly have good intentions and many relationships carry on fairly drama free. And then there are those other times.
In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered a lunch table neighbor “not wanting to people”, an unhappy person using technology to poke at others, and friend who neglected to share a change in plans with me that felt unfair. Along with situations my clients have detailed and a few others I’m leaving out, I’ve had my fair share of “abrasive people situations” recently. So I find myself testing the mic on this little soapbox today and would like to share some helpful reminders about interacting with others when communication breaks down.
1- Keep the relationship intact.
People live life from their own perception. This is one of the first things I learned in coaching school. Disagreements and miscommunication will arise because everyone sees everything from a different point of view. When our brains receive new data, it gets filtered through our past experiences; emotions become attached, then the brain tells the mind our unique perception of this information. Maybe it’s a polar opposite stance or only a fraction different than another, but one thing is for certain, it’s never exactly identical. There are specific personalities who are quite adept at the skill of arguing their side and winning the argument but in the end, they lose the relationship. Enter in a Dr. Phil’s concept called right-fighting. Are you more concerned about being right or resolving the relationship? Try coming into the conversation asking to first understand where the other person is coming from, it will naturally lay down your defenses and possibly reveal some incorrect assumptions on your part. It could sound like this, “I have observed ________________, can you help me to understand where you are coming from with that?”
2- When it’s a dicey situation, don’t rely on technology.
Studies show that 55% of communication is non-verbal (body language, eye contact), 38% is vocal (tone, pitch, speed, volume) and 7%, the words used. Only seven percent are our words! When we have a history of communication with a person, there is the ability to imagine the non-verbal and vocal elements when reading e-mail or messaging. But with sarcasm and emojis, or no communication history, there can be enormous gaps between what’s intended and what is received. The greater the distance between the two invites frustration. When appropriate, pick up the phone or get face to face to get back on the same page. Most every time I’ve done this, two beautiful things result. The original goal moves closer towards completion, rather than stalling in miscommunication land. And secondly, trust between parties is strengthened because you’ve joined teams to move forward in a common objective, rather than spend time taking a stance against each other defining sides.
3- If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Your mom and grandma were right! Words are powerful, they can build up and edify or tear down and deeply wound. When our emotions get the better of us and we can say things we wish we hadn’t but we can’t take them back. I’ve seen it documented that it takes anywhere from four to seven encouraging comments to erase a wounding comment. We speak over 16,000 words a day, what’s the dominant tone you’re contributing to the world? There is also a difference between a situation being bad versus a person being bad. Calling someone the latter is a pretty low-blow. A statement such as, “When you do ______________, it makes me feel ______________”, can help if it’s an issue that truly needs to be addressed.
4- If you’re only 2% wrong, you’re still playing a part in the wrong. Admit it, it helps.
A Therapist friend of mine brought this up recently and the power it has to mend and heal, let’s just say WOW! There is that old adage, when you point your finger at someone else, there three pointing back at yourself. Nobody is perfect and when there is a breakdown, more often than not, each party has contributed in some way. Of course, we don’t like when we’re wrong, our ego gets bruised. But I’ve also found that people who can admit wrong and say sorry have far greater amounts of integrity, compassion and character than anyone with heaping amounts of ego.
5- If you’re in a foul mood, there might be a better time to have the conversation.
Emotions can be crazy and make a mountain out of a molehill. When a situation arises where you just want to react, it’s good to stop, step away for a moment, regroup and find some rational thoughts. The part of our brain where emotions reside is also NOT the part of the brain where reason, logic or language resides. When you take a breather to understand the emotions, words can be found to minimize the divide and effectively work towards a solution, rather than adding fuel to the fire.
These might seem elementary reminders but our humanness creates gaps between what we know and how effectively we engage that knowledge into action. Miscommunication is healthy because it teaches us things and provides information for us to navigate relationships. However if you’re on either end of the spectrum and never have disagreement, you might be a doormat and need help finding your voice. And if you always have disagreements, it’s worth looking inside to see the root cause and address it head on. Regardless of where you are, I hope this reminder serves you well today!