Saturday, October 18, 2008

You Aren't REALLY Listening.

Let me start off by making a glittering general statement and blanket coverall assumption like I have done so many times:

We all think we're pretty clear communicators.

Here's the reality:

We aren't.

Even the best of communicators struggle in some of the seemingly simplest situations. For great examples look at people's close relationships: Good friends and family. And what are the two things that make those situations hard? 

For one we don't just communicate with our words. We communicate with metamessages. For those of you who don't know what a metamessage is, it's the message we send to someone behind what we say. It can come in the form on inflection, body language, facial expressions, or implicit positions that the other party supposedly already knows about. And, it's obvious to see why that would tend to complicate things more often in a close relationship. Your close friends and family know you. They know your tendencies, opinions, attitudes, etc. And, while you might think that would help them understand you better, often times it just gets in the way with what you really want to say.

The second problem is intrinsically related to the first. Instead of focusing on what you're saying, or even allowing you to speak, a close friend or family member will "interpret" using what they believe you want to say, or what they believe you are thinking. This means that they take a position on what you've said before you've said it, or if you've said it, they aren't hearing what you said, but what they think you wanted to say.

So, having identified the problem in this part of the blog post you might expect me to give a remedy. Well, I don't have one. I could blather on about how we should temper our use of preconceived notions about close friends and family so we actually hear them, instead of hearing what we think they are saying, but there's no clean cut way to do that. I'm sure we're all going to run into brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandparents, in-laws, and friends who will not let us say our piece, and when we do say it, they will have thought we meant something else. That's just life. But, perhaps if you've found yourself with this problem, you can refer them to this post so they can at least identify that what they are doing, and maybe give you a fair shake. 

That being said. It's not just their problem. It's yours too. And mine.

PS - I sure hope my brother reads this.

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