Do you ever find that what you said is not what was heard? Or what you heard is not what was said? This happens to me sometimes, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m getting older!
Lately I’ve been trying hard to make sure I understand what someone really means when I am unclear. Recently I made plans to meet a friend for lunch and after listening to the litany of errands she planned to do before we met, I found myself asking “so, do I understand correctly that you want to meet at 1pm at Panera in Hanover?” “Oh no, she said, can you meet me at Panera in Hingham?” Yes. Glad we clarified.
Long ago in the dark ages for we all had cell phones, a friend and I made plans to meet for lunch at Pizzeria UNO. As I sat waiting for her well past our arranged meeting time at the UNOs in Hanover, wondering if everything was ok with her, she sat waiting at the UNOs in Kingston wondering if everything was ok with me. Even in these days of cell phones and texts, miscommunications still happen. A misunderstanding about where to meet, like we experienced, can be an inconvenient but benign miscommunication.
More difficulty or hurt feelings can result when emotions are involved. For instance, when we make a suggestion as to how something might be done, and the person to whom we make the suggestion hears “you’re doing it wrong.” Or we suggest getting together to talk or do something and the other person hears the suggestion as a demand on their time and an inconvenience. When I invite someone to connect I find myself saying “no pressure, just the offer.” I want to offer to get together, but will not be offended if the offer is not taken.
Another miscommunication can happen when someone reads into what we don’t say. I recently had a situation where someone understood my “quiet.” Knowing that I amrarely quiet and not realizing that I was consciously trying to be “more quiet,” she misunderstood my silence as disproval or distance between us. I was simply trying to “mind my own business” and honor her boundaries. I was more than willing to talk but I was not going to pry into her business. As a result, my silence was misinterpreted as something wrong between us.
Yes, communication can be work sometimes. Yes, we need to think about what we say and how we say it, and what we ask and how we ask it. Tone of voice can be helpful in discerning a person’s state of mind when we are actually speaking in person. Much is “lost in the translation” when we email or text. I have made mistakes many times in thinking I know “someone’s tone of voice” when reading a text or email I have often been quite incorrect as to my interpretation. I’ve also sometimes experienced hurt feelings or frustration in not receiving a reply to a text or email, making us some “story” as to why I have been ignored, when all the while, the intended recipient never received my initial contact.
I don’t know about you, but many a time I have created a text then neglected to hit “send.” Then I wonder why I get no reply, until the next day when I discover my unsent text. Do you ever do that? Or I’ve sent emails that got “lost in space” because I did not have the email correctly spelled out. It used to be that they would bounce back, as undeliverable. But today, there are so many millions of people with emails out there that are so similar, it’s likely that someone received the email, but not the recipient I intended, thus it didn’t bounce back.
So rather than get upset, or make up a story about why someone is not responding….they may be just busy, or away, or just did not get the message….when someone doesn’t reply to a text or email within a reasonable time, and I need a reply, I resort to the old fashioned method of picking up the telephone, rather than assume that I am being snubbed, and letting a resentment grow and fester into anger. Most times the person will say they never got my inquiry and even if that’s not true, I get the answer I need, and avoid the “she’s ignoring me anger” that might otherwise follow. You get the idea.
Clear communication doesn’t always happen. Sometimes clarification is needed. The bottom line is to not let unclear communication interfere with relationships, friendships, jobs, etc. Speak up, listen up, and when necessary clarify. It isn’t always easy; sometimes it may even be a bit awkward, but it is well worth the effort. Now, what did you hear me to say? Let’s be sure you heard what I meant to say.