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Misunderstood: Say What You Mean

the politics of angerEffective communication requires us to say what we mean so we can be understood.

However when someone hears the words “always” and “never” their critical thinking takes over. We all know there are exceptions to “always” and “never” statements and that they are not literal facts. So we need to clarify our language to convey that “always” and “never” are figurative or feeling words.

The idea is that ” It feels like you never listen to me” or “It feels like you always blame me. ” By adding “feels like” we avoid sidetracking into the exceptions of “always” and “never”occurrences. This ensures we are being clear and more likely to be heard and understood.

Being a good communicator is dependent upon learning to be a good listener. Although people are talking every day, good communication is not always taking place. To be a good communicator we need to be mindful of our words and tone.

When we choose to shout, the listener only hears our tone, not our words. When someone talks, make an effort to really listen. Stop whatever you are doing, establish eye contact and pay attention to their tone and words. Quite often what is said between the lines is just as important as the words being spoken.

Good communicators do not take others’ tone personal. They choose to ask questions to gain understanding, rather then give explanations to force agreement. They choose to make the implied feelings explicit by responding to the emotions behind the words.

Good communicators do not get caught up defending themselves. As soon as you defend, you lose. In doing so, you are making the accusations real, as if they were worthy of a rebuttal. You are not a guilty criminal worthy of punishment. They are not the judge and jury. Just because they said it, doesn’t make it literally true. It’s how they feel in the present. It’s not a fact.

Communication is 10% information and 90% emotion. People often say the same things over and over because they don’t feel their emotions have been heard. It’s easy for a listener to jump over feelings and give advice, share facts, or try to minimize the problem rather than really hear what’s being said. When we refuse to hear someone else’s feelings, we are telling that person: “Your feelings are not okay You have no right to feel that way.” But feelings are neither right nor wrong; it’s what we do with them that’s right or wrong.

To begin improving our communication skills start looking at the things that we do have control over. We cannot control other people, but we can control our behavior and reactions to events.

It may help to reframe or reevaluate the situation(s). This can be done by asking questions to gain understanding:
•“How does that make you feel?”
•”What is the worst part?”
•“What are you trying to achieve?”
•“What would you prefer instead?”

If we are confused about another person’s words, a good idea is to repeat back our interpretation of what has been said and ask for clarification. A helpful suggestion that promotes clarification is: “So what you are saying is that…”

We can choose to agree with the feelings, not the facts. We are not agreeing that they are “right” in their “facts.” We are just letting them know we heard what they said. We are merely agreeing that they said it and can agree that they feel the way they feel: We can say,
•”You sound very ____.”
•”I don’t blame you for feeling____.”
•”I’d be ____if that happened to me.”
•”I’m sorry your so ____.”
“It’s awful, isn’t it!”

We can choose not to take their words at face value. Instead we can agree with how they feel: “You sound hurt. That must be painful.” We can keep our version of the facts to ourselves. This is called, discretion, which is the power to choose how much we wish to reveal and when. Sometimes that means choosing to say nothing at all and letting our silence speak for us.

It’s also important to maintain boundaries when communication is escalating into an argument. Arguing only fuels hostility and it doesn’t get us heard. Don’t feel obliged to judge everything that is said. We can retain the mutual right to disagree. Responses like those below help to develop boundaries and set limits:
•”I never thought of it that way.”
•”You’ve got a real problem there. I don’t know what to tell you.”
•”That would be nice wouldn’t it.”
•”You may have a point.”

Photo by astro_matt

Misunderstood: Say What You Mean

Aaron Karmin


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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Misunderstood: Say What You Mean. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2018/02/misunderstood-say-what-you-mean/

 

Last updated: 12 Feb 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Feb 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.