Monday, 21 November 2011

Give me the headlines - what specifically happened?

Blue Rhodedendron
Here is our fourth article in our series about language and behaviour patterns. One of the thinking patterns, which seems to cause couples the most difficulty in their communication is the Big picture to detail continuum, especially if they find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Which do you prefer? Consider these two descriptions:

Our garden is full of  rhodedendrons and azaleas.

Close up
The blue rhodedendron shown in the picture above is about 8 feet tall by 10 feet across and the flowers have a black tongue as shown in the picture on the right. We have over 19 dufferent varieties ranging from white, through yellows, pinks, peach and dark red. Most years they flower in succession from as early as March until as late as June.

Did the first sentence have enough information for you?
Did the second description have too much information, just right or still not enough for you?
Did the two descriptions flow easily for you, first to second?
Now try reading the second one first.
Did you get a 'physical' reaction?
Did it work just as well for you that way round? Even better for you?

Like all these 'patterns' of thinking and communication we each have a unique way of processing the world. A useful guide to how you like to receive information is in how you give it out.

Patterns may change in different circumstances
Sometimes the context makes a difference, so think about the last time you went on holiday. Imagine I'm just the other side of your computer screen and tell me about it.

Was it  "We went to Bournemouth and had a great time."

Or "We had trouble packing everything into the car but eventually set off about 11.00am. We stopped for a coffee and comfort break about 12.00 and changed drivers. Due to traffic jams and inconsiderate drivers we arrived at the holiday park about 4.30. By then I was desperate for a drink and another trip to the loo. Our chalet was a four berth so we had a bit of an argument about who was having the double bed. Eventually it was us as we had booked the holiday in the first place. It's amazing how well set out these holiday chalets are. There was even a corkscrew and a bottle opener in the kitchen. Once we had unpacked we were at last able to sit down for a nice cup of tea."

The first answer is from someone who likes to give an overview or big picture response. They will prefer the same in return. Often once this has been done they will want more information, but probably not quite in as much detail as the second answer.
the continuum
The second answer is from someone who likes to get down to the detail. Often this requires a sequencing of the information. If you interupt, they might have to start again from the beginning. This person will feel dissatisfied by answer one and will need to know much more.

How do we communicate better?
Knowing your own and your partner's preferences is a first step to understanding why you sometimes misunderstand each other. The second step is to develop your flexibility to move along the continuum and use the language which is less natural to you. This will benefit you in all sorts of situations. So, if you naturally focus on the detail, remember other people might like a bit of an overview first. And if you only focus on the bigger picture, start asking what else your partner needs to know.   

Let us know your patterns or the ways you find to communicate or not communicate.

If your conversations fall short of true communication, lead to arguments or hurt silences, contact us to find out how you can begin to speak the same language and help each other communicate in ways that will get listened to. Email Nigel and Jenny or call 0800 298 5938

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