When I engage in conversation usually it's not just to hear myself talk, I want to be understood, I think most of us have that goal in mind. My communication style is intuitive which means that I only care about the forest, not the individual trees. Details are cumbersome to me. The most significant reason for miscommunication in my interactions happens when I'm talking with functional communicators. Those who crave the details, clarity, planning, and end points. They overlook nothing and account for all aspects. Often the difference in styles creates obstacles which lead to misunderstandings.
I get so frustrated when I'm talking, and there is no response, no acknowledgment. It feels like I'm just providing information rather than having a conversation. Then I feel like what I have to say is not important. I'm left reeling over things like, did I mention something I shouldn't have or use the wrong words? Was I not clear, did I leave out necessary details? By the time we talk, again I have over-analyzed the previous conversation to an unrecognizable state (see my post on Assumptions). Which doesn't solve anything, in fact, it only creates more problems to work through.
As hard as it is to do in practice, I try to keep reminding myself that feelings are never right or wrong, they just are. So I have to convince myself that I shouldn't take it as a personal attack. The person I was talking to wasn't engaged in the conversation because I didn't provide the details needed for him to invest. That or, I dominated the conversation because I wasn't listening to listen, I was waiting for my turn to respond. Once all of that is out of the way, it's pretty easy to clarify and remedy the situation (though getting to that point can feel like an eternity sometimes).
I also have a terrible habit of getting frustrated and then shutting down and just responding "ok" when deep down I don't feel "ok, " but I refuse to say anything. I don't want to make it worse but that whole thought process, if put into action, does make it worse. I think all of it could be avoided by just staying in the moment and asking questions until everything is crystal clear, but man is that tough to do because we all have pride and that pride does not like being swallowed! I'm not perfect yet, but I am well on my way! Haha!
Some people are always ready to communicate, anytime day or night but I am not that person. I require a certain amount of prep work. I can listen to someone else, but as for sharing my day or talking about what I'm working on or interested in or excited about, I have to be in the mood or get myself motivated to do so. I've only started to notice myself being this way as I have gotten older which has made me wonder why. I have a half-baked theory to share.
Before I can have a meaningful conversation, I have to get right with myself and do some self-validating. I have to remind myself that I don't need for the other person to get excited with me or understand my thoughts or feelings or agree with me. I have to remind myself that their reactions and responses (or lack thereof) do not determine the relevance of what I have to say. It takes work to do this because it is not my default mode, I would prefer everyone think I'm brilliant and always right, and everything I have to say is intellectual and stimulating. Unfortunately, that is not the way life works thus the reason I must mentally prepare and sometimes I just think I'm too tired or too lazy to equip myself properly so let's chat another time.
We communicate to share and share to be understood (see my post on Miscommunication). We seek for others to share in our excitement when we are happy and we seek comfort and support when we are sad. But I think that sure puts a lot of pressure on the other person to know what you need or want in that moment and give it to you unconditionally. Maybe there is a compromise somewhere in there, but I haven't found it yet. I will say this though, because of the way I compensate for what I need or want I have started to become a better conversationalist for those around me. I have learned the difference between listening and hearing, receiving information and engaging, asking questions and seeking clarification.
Of course, it is still a fantastic feeling when someone else validates us; I think we all crave validation from time to time so knowing how to self-validate is maybe a worthwhile skill to master even if it means not always being ready to have a meaningful conversation at the drop of a hat. Quality interactions can just learn to have a little patience!
Have you ever heard the line "assuming makes an ass out of u and me"? And to think, we all make hundreds of assumptions every day. I'm not implying we are all assholes because more often than not we make them subconsciously, the only time it makes us the asshole is when we knowingly do it. When there are gaps in the information collected, we fill in those blanks to reconcile what we are experiencing with what we think is going on. We don’t even realize we do this. When we expect certain things or hope not to have them, guess what my friend, unspoken expectations or lack thereof can be a form of assuming.
Most of us didn't get here with OnStar; we had help crafting the perfect storm with the help of our insecurities or all those participation trophies we received as children. Or any number of other factors, bad relationships, or a variety of different ingredients that went into the blender to form the bittersweet concoction that I know I have had to taste from time to time.
The danger is, that what our senses are telling us, and what we think is happening, may not be the reality (see my post on Miscommunication) . So how do we permanently remove that address from the GPS and choose not to drink the Kool-Aid? (I've never much liked Kool-Aid anyway, if you know me then you know I prefer Powerade)!
Being aware is insightful, but solving for it seems to be little more difficult. So far, these are a few of the strategies I've found some success with:
- Be curious, ask questions, gain clear information before making decisions
- Freely give trust, change your default first to assume the best
- If you didn't see it or hear it yourself, don't write your script for a scene you experience.
So how do you deal with assumptions? I would love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!
As much as it pains me to admit, I am guilty of this. What is stonewalling you ask? It can show up in a couple different ways like when someone refuses to participate in the conversation or mid-sentence they just change the subject. Other ways of stonewalling include the silent treatment or my personal favorite, when asked if something is wrong (because clearly there is something wrong) I simply respond "nothing" (see my post about Miscommunication).
For me, stonewalling started out innocently, usually by trying to avoid conflict or calm myself down and keep from stressing out, or sometimes I honestly didn't know how I felt at the moment or what to say so it was a defense mechanism of sorts to just stay silent.
The impact that stonewalling has though is not so innocent, quite frankly, its passive aggressive in that we think the other person should already know what's wrong or what they did wrong so we shouldn't have to tell them. That leaves the other person feeling ignored, misunderstood, invalidated or just plain hurt. Left unattended for too long, it will certainly lead to resentment.
Many times I would have already played out how I thought the conversation would go before even having it and then I would use that as justification for not having the conversation at all (see my post on Assumptions). It has taken me a long time to realize I was going about it all wrong.
If we are going to have successful relationships where communication flows freely then we have to start assuming the best of our partner, every time. Stop thinking we know what they are going to say or do because they might surprise you. I know I have been surprised time and time again with the patience and willingness to learn from each other and grow together, the thoughtfulness that my significant other has shown me has changed my whole way of thinking and interacting.
I haven't yet mastered this completely but I am definitely well on my way. Hope this helps someone else as much as learning it for myself has helped me!