Specificity is the rule.” -Author unknown, but whose hand I would love to shake.
Common misunderstandings come from saying one thing, but meaning something totally different from what the other person understood. Humans have some annoying, correctable idiosyncrasies which prevent them from communicating with others.
Average person will listen to four words before formulating a response.
This person will assume (herein is the monstrous, avoidable, in-a-nutshell problem) she knows the remainder of the diatribe. Frustration of the speaker comes with her inappropriate response, due wholly to not having listened to what was actually said.
Average person has a built-in (albeit malfunctioning) universal translator.
This person will assume (Pst.) the speaker misspoke, worded it improperly or has made a miscalculation in the logical path to what she meant to say. He will translate what was said into what he would have said and respond accordingly. Much like the assumption in the first example, therein lies the issue.
Average person has no interest in change.
This person will assume that the speaker’s complaint is best resolved by the speaker adjusting his perception rather than adjusting her actions which directly caused the complaint.
Average person is not at fault.
This person will assume (Oh, my! Do you see the pattern YET?) the speaker is fundamentally flawed. The problem could in no way be attributed to him, his actions, his inactions or his attitude.
Average person knows what he meant.
This speaker will assume (!!!), regardless of the words escaping his mouth, the listener will understand exactly what he meant to say.
You are an ass.”
In all five of these examples, the stumbling block is assumption (assume = making an “ass” of u + me). Overcoming that block is as simplistic as the quote at the beginning: Be specific.
First, say what you mean.
Clearly, albeit best concisely, state your grievance. Then, stop to be quiet enough to listen to the response. If it is inappropriate, restate the grievance without pointing out the fault in the response. If you need a third trip through, breathe, consider your wording and attitude carefully before you speak again.
Second, listen to the words being said.
The person with which you speak may very well be articulate and able to discuss issues with you, should you give them the opportunity.
Third, do not be vague.
Point out the precise action which is causing the grievance rather than alluding to politically correct “feelings” you may have about the action. This will avoid the possibility of your perception being the issue.
Fourth, condescension is not becoming.
Do not make your observation of a person’s attitude, inaction or actions a personal attack. Clearly state this action lead to this result. This type of watertight communication will involve the listener in the self-reflection necessary to abate or correct the issue.
Fifth, ask questions.
If you are unsure what was said was what was meant, repeat the statement in the form of a question. If the speaker cannot understand what you are saying, cash in the chip which says what she said was not what she meant.
Look both ways.
Communication is a two-way street: speaking and listening. Both parties must contribute equally for it to be successful. Issuance of blame is not vital to resolving misunderstandings. Specificity is.
Which of the five deadly communication asses plagues you the most?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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