Thursday, 30 June 2011

Speaking the same language - part one (of two)

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said. But I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant!"

No matter what 'language' we speak, we all have our own unique personalised brand of it. The words we say and the way we say them communicates much more than the dictionary definition of our words.

Here's a story of how easy it is to construe meaning where none was intended.
Paul and Sally have been together for a few years now and happily talk about getting married, having children and their future life together. They are however not engaged and Sally wants to be engaged, have a ring and begin planning in earnest for the wedding. Paul is 'keeping his powder dry' and has not yet popped the question. They 'won' a weekend in Rome, a romantic city. The thought of engagement never being far from Sally's mind she hoped this might be the place Paul would choose to propose.
Returning to their hotel room on the first evening they discovered the bed had been turned down and on the pillow was an attractive little box. Sally's mind went into overdrive at seeing this ring sized box and she said to Paul "I wonder what's in there?" Paul's reply as relayed by Sally was, "Well, you'd better open it and look inside then!" (This is spoken in a tone of voice suggesting there is something of great interest inside, which will delight and astound her). This leads Sally to become very excited and thus when on opening she discovers two chocolates left by the maid also leads to dissapointment and a deep sense of let down.
Paul's version of this "Well, you'd better open it and look inside then", is delivered in a flat tone with no inflexion and no 'suggestion' of a hidden surprise. He therefore felt Sally's reaction to the two chocolates was 'over the top'. They laugh as they tell this story, because they can appreciate the difference verbal emphasis and 'internal framing' of the interaction can have on the perceived outcome. Sally was too upset to eat her chocolate, so Paul had them both! The next night he offered her both chocolates in compensation!
Sally knows she was looking for meaning, and there was none.

We are all capable of giving an interpretation to a communication that is just not there and misunderstandings follow and easily escalate. This can also be phrased as we hear what we expect to hear, see what we expect to see and interpret the world through our own unique set of filters to focus on what is important to us and 'filter' out stuff we don't want to acknowledge. To make matters worse we not only filter things coming in we also unconsciously add our own meaning by filtering what we put out.

If this all sounds too complicated get in touch so we can show you how simple it is to begin speaking each other's language and give a boost to your relationship.

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