You could be in trouble; big time. And it gets worse. You may or may not be able to salvage your reputation and the relationships you’re so desperately trying to forge! How could this possibly have happened?
Unfortunately I see and hear this happening all too often. What am I even talking about? I’m talking about times when people open their mouth and say something with little real thought, and their words reveal their true nature. They may at the time feel they are speaking with someone who entirely agrees with their own point of view, but in reality, their viewpoint isn’t shared. If that view is so different that it crosses a line and becomes an offensive remark so far removed from the second person’s value system, a wedge appears in the relationship than may never be repaired.
An example would be helpful. Not long ago, I was speaking with someone I’d just been introduced to at a social gathering. I work in the field of Social Services, and this other person works in Retail, although they had yet to discover my profession. As they were talking, they spoke about the, “lazy bums on welfare who don’t work and suck the system dry”. Then the person added, “You know what I’m saying, am I right?”
What these words actually illustrate so perfectly are two common huge mistakes. One, the comment labeling an entire population of people is offensive in its own right. Two, the last bit is an attempt by the speaker to pull you on board with their point of view which they assume you share, without giving you much of an option to differ.
The comment above, and others like it, actually reveal much more about the person talking than they do about the population being referred to. And the reality is that if that person who was talking to me valued a relationship moving forward with me, it would take an incredibly long time to change my belief that their core belief’s regarding those on welfare had changed. Just saying, “Sorry ’bout that. Don’t know where it came from…let’s start again”, isn’t going to always be acceptable.
That’s an example of words, but what about your actions? One’s actions say a great deal about you as well if not more. Suppose you were to ask someone for help with your resume. Rather than doing it for you, they invested a great deal of time and effort talking with you about revisions, grammar, spelling and format. All the while you sit there nodding and appearing to be on board with their ideas. You then meet weeks later and they ask to see your revised resume. What you show them however is almost the exact same resume you had to start with, not because you objected to their ideas, but you just liked it yourself.
In this scenario, you’re more than entitled to have your own resume contain whatever you want and look however you want – your name is on the top after all! However, by failing to implement the suggestions which you sought out in the first place, and I mean any of the suggestions, what you are really communicating may be that you are stubborn, inflexible, set in your ways, resistant to new ideas, and worst of all, dismissive of the help you sought. Are you likely to get further help from the person who invested so much time before? Unlikely. So don’t complain and seem shocked when your request for additional help goes unfulfilled.
So what is miscommunication? Miscommunication is when person A sends a message to person B, but the message sent is not received by person B as person A intended.
A simple example is person A says to person B, “Let’s go out for lunch tomorrow”. Person A only intends to share a meal with person B and nothing more. Person B on the other hand, starts wondering why person A wants to have lunch with them. Are they in trouble? What does person A want to talk about? Is person A attracted to them? So person A is just interested in having lunch with someone instead of eating alone at work, but person B is unsettled and nervous and wants to find out person A’s motive before agreeing or not. Miscommunication classic.
What can you do therefore to reduce the miscommunication in your own dealings with others? Well start with sending clear messages that reduce the chance of someone misinterpreting your intentions. Next you can check to ensure that the person you are speaking with actually receive the intended message.
Rephrasing or paraphrasing what you’ve just heard someone say, gives the person a chance to either correct your understanding or acknowledge that what they said was heard by you correctly. Good examples of this are when you might hear someone say to you, “So let me see if I heard you correctly. You’re saying…” or “Just let me check that I get what you’re saying”. Whenever you hear someone say these kinds of sentences, you’re hearing a good communicator in action.
This is a professional who is taking the words you have spoken, processing the idea in their brain and making sense of them in their own way. They value what you have said so much that it is important for them to check and ensure they have your full meaning correct. They actually are inviting you to clarify your meaning if they’ve got it wrong in any way.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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