In any interaction there is what you intend to get across and the response your communication actually creates. The meaning of your communication is not about what you intend, but what is received and understood by the receiver. Others receive what we say and do through their mental map of the world. When we communicate anything, and particularly when someone hears something different from what we meant to communicate, we have an opportunity to notice if what we said was received as we intended it to be received. That way we can adjust our delivery.
Communication is about creating an experience in, and getting a response from, the listener. This presupposition gives us both the responsibility and opportunity to vary our communications until we get the response we want.
When I was doing my Master’s thesis I had been assigned a thesis advisor that didn’t communicate in my language. We were both speaking English but at the time, it seemed that no matter what I did to follow his instructions, I failed.
I would request that we have a conversation on the phone so I could ask him questions about what he was saying. And, he would respond by sending me an email saying that what he was communicating was completely understandable by email and that a phone call wouldn’t make anything more clear so it was a waste of his time – even though his job was to be my liaison to the university for getting through the master’s thesis process.
This issue went on for months and I was subjected to what felt like, his insults of my efforts. For every page I wrote, he would mark and send back to me. All I could I see when I opened the page was a sea of red. His most common comment to me ways, “This is not a sentence.” Which to me was impossible since I had already been a published author and received A’s in every course for my term papers. The detail of this experience was killing me. Every time I received an email from him it would throw me into fits of rage, helplessness and most of all hurt.
Finally, exasperated, I asked a previous professor of mine to look at something I wrote and included this advisor’s comments. She took one look and said, it looks like you are writing marketing copy and he is asking for academic writing. I had used the wrong language, but the advisor I was working with couldn’t express it in terms I could understand!
From my past professor’s comment it took a about a week to turn around and my thesis was submitted and accepted… just because someone spoke to me using my language preference.
So, ask yourself, where are you frustrated when you communicate with someone in your life? Where you say “left” and they go right? Next time it happens to you, try something else, some other way of expressing what you are trying to communicate. If they can’t understand the detail, explain the big picture and vice versa. Or if they always disagree, tell them there’s no way it will work so they can figure out how to make it work. As my mentor says – “Be willing to be indefinitely wrong!” If your communication is not working try something else.
Tracy Joy is an NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Vancouver, Canada. She is an international business expert in the area of human systems analysis and thinking change. If you have brain questions, send them Tracy and she’ll answer them on this blog. She can be reached through www.TherapeuticNLP.com