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Communicating is So Darn Hard

How many languages can you speak fluently?  If you are like me, you probably only can speak one – English.

When you are in the presence of others speaking a different language, don’t you feel lost?  You have no idea of what they’re saying.  If you’re asked a question, you have no idea how to get the others to understand your answer.

Have you ever realized

For Many of Us English is a Foreign Language

You may be saying this guy is nuts.  How can English be a foreign language to me?  I have spoken it all of my life.

Let me tell you what I have come to realize.

All too frequently people misunderstand what is said to them.  At least that is what the person speaking believes.  Whose fault is it?  Is that the fault of the person speaking or the fault of the one listening?

Most of us believe that it is the fault of the person listening.  They weren’t paying attention or weren’t listening carefully.  That is not correct.

There is a presupposition in Neuro Linguistic Programming. It is

The Meaning of My Communication

is the Outcome I Get

This presupposition simply means whenever I am talking to another person, they are hearing what I am saying through their own filters based on their life experiences up to that point.

Let me give an example.

Say I tell you it is really warm now. For me a comfortable temperature is 68 degrees. The temperature is 72 and that is really warm for me. On the other hand 72 is a little cool for you. A comfortable temperature for you is 76.

You don’t understand me when I say it is really warm now. There is a break in communication.  I have not taken your comfort zone into consideration.  What is really warm for me is actually a little cool for you.

So our communication has failed.

If I want to really connect with you when I am speaking I have to understand how you are going to interpret what I say.  Then I can adjust what I say accordingly.  In the process I need to be really specific in what I say.

Sounds Complex, Doesn’t it?

It really isn’t.

Let’s oversimplify this going back to the example I just used. 

Again, it’s 72 in the room. You and I are there. I ask you how the temperature is for you. You let me know that you are cold. 76 is your ideal temperature. You have short sleeves on.

On the other had, I am hot. However, I have a sweater on. Under that is short sleeves. I offer to give you my sweater to wear while we’re in the room. That makes it a little more comfortable for the both of us.

In the process I have gotten to know you at a deeper level and was able to communicate more clearly with you.

In any conversation we have with another we have to take the time to make sure that we understand how they are interpreting what we are saying.  Any time they tell us something we need to understand what they mean by what they are saying.

Many of us are more likely to do this with strangers.  We don’t know them.  So we take the time to clarify what they are saying.  In the process we get to know them at a deeper level.

The Challenge with Those Closest to Us

On the other hand it is entirely different with those closest to us.  We take for granted that they understand us and always know what we mean when we are talking to them.  After all we have spent so much time with them.

We expect them to understand what we think and feel. We don’t cut them any slack when they don’t. Then the frustration builds.

At the same time we think we know in advance why they do what they do.  We never take the time to clarify the reason they are acting the way they are or saying what they are. We never get down to understanding their feelings.   They get frustrated with us.

Let’s look at our closest relationships.

Do you realize the impact this has on marriages?

At the start of a marriage the husband and wife are getting to know each other.  Frequently one does something the other does not anticipate.  Rather than clarifying why the spouse did what they did the other spouse assumes they know why.  Frequently they are offended.  They just bury the hurt rather than letting the other know how they were hurt and clarifying what the spouse meant. 

As time goes by these little things build.  The spouse buries them.  However the hurt grows.  It is never resolved.

Several years down the road the spouses have grown distant from each other.  They don’t understand each other.  They feel the other is not meeting their needs.  Frequently separation and divorce occurs.

Also look at the relationships between parents and children.

Many times parents don’t take the time to understand their children.  They misinterpret what they say.  They don’t really clarify with their children why they are doing what they do.

Parents grow distant from their children.  Children grow distant from their parents.

What is the impact on children?  Many spend much of their adult years trying to overcome the emotional wounds caused by their parents.  Needless to say  relationships are strained.  Sometimes this lasts for decades and, even, lifetimes.

That’s why Communicating is so darned hard.

How Can We Change?

You may wonder what you can do.

  • First, be specific when talking to anyone else, especially those closest to you.
  • Second , don’t take for granted the other person understands what you said.  Ask them to let you know what you just said in in their own words.
  • Third,  ask others for clarification any time they do something that catches you offguard,  Don’t mind read and assume what they have done was to hurt you.

Just taking these three steps in every conversation will enable you to improve your communication skills.  Your relationships will deepen.

Much Success in Communicating,

Bob Paroski

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