Good communication is hard to obtain when two people are subscribing their meanings to what each other are saying.
You’re talking to a romantic partner about something that means a lot to you. Let’s say the example is how big of a deal it is to open up about feelings you have towards your partner. However, when you said the words “open up” or “feelings” to your partner, they reacted negatively to the way you brought things up. The conversation becomes derailed. A conversation about feelings and being vulnerable has now morphed into something other than what it meant to be.
Sounds familiar? Even if you have not experienced this kind of situation before, there is something similar you have experienced, and that is miscommunication! When someone applies their context words and phrases, making your words something altogether different from your intended meaning.
Miscommunication happens with parents, significant others, coworkers, managers, acquaintances, teachers; the list goes on and on.
Miscommunication happens when someone isn’t actively listening with a lack of desire to understand your point of view. The individual may also neglect to comprehend you have a perspective that differs from theirs.
These are the main reasons why people miscommunicate without even including culture and demographics. I wanted to focus on these points separate from demographic and culture to emphasize how much there could be a lack of comprehension. Without comprehension, without someone being able to conceptualize that you are a separate individual with your thoughts, you have to be careful. You have to be mindful of how you converse with others and how those conversations mature based on what your goal is.
To fathom this meaning and the accompanying purposes that follow, you cannot expect to be heard, to be felt, to be understood, or acknowledged.
These points are a hard reality of communication. You cannot expect someone to be skilled, let alone interested in chess, taking the time to learn the game, or how to navigate the board. You can’t expect a relative to cook chicken parmesan without having the interest and practice in learning to make it.
The same goes for communication. People need to have a desire to not only communicate but to have the desire to understand what you’re saying.
Makes sense, right? You would think this is everyone’s narrative. If this were true, ultimately, then miscommunication wouldn’t exist. The harsh reality is that people are always looking to get something out of a conversation by default. There is going to be something left untranslated. When I say harsh reality, I do not cynically mean this. It is a fact of communication.
Communication with definition manifests not only with words but with emotional expression, physical behavior, and subtle attitudes (how someone feels about something according to their values). These variables add to the complexity of personal background, communication-like attributes manifest.
How could you put this into practice?
In a conversation, create the space for listening to the words people are using, how they are saying these words, and how they are noticing you doing the same. This format is a good starting point. Typically people don’t think about how you are talking because they assume you are defaulting to what they think of the words you are using.
Keep in mind that if you are talking about “something” delicate or that the “something” has any significance, make it a note to emphasize this. Keep tabs on how you are communicating about it. When conversations get serious, it’s more likely that energy will either try to stay aligned or become derailed.
Something I do in conversations that helps is slowing the pace of the conversation and look for clarity and context. What are they trying to say, and where are they coming from saying it? When you slow down the pace of a discussion, you can process the conversation more efficiently than if it were intense or fast-paced. I’ll be going more into context as you read.
Bob wants to talk to Steve about something Steven is doing that bothers Bob. The conversation starts intense because Bob is charged (emotionally) about the topic he is bringing up. Steven takes this opportunity to slow down the conversation and to understand why Bob is upset. Steven tells Bob, “Let’s pause for a second,” bringing the conversation to a halt so that clarification can form. Steven can now figure out the context for himself, and, as a result, he doesn’t get charged or affected by the opposing energy automatically.
This conversation would be more difficult for both Bob and Steven if they didn’t pause to gain clarity and context. Both allow empathy and sympathy a seat at the dialogue. This conversation wouldn’t even be worth having if they weren’t going in uninterested and in an agreed-benefited outcome. In essence, walk with caution when these standards are being overlooked or gaslighted.
Context has probably been more increasingly present in my thoughts as I talk to people as I get older. As I get more experience talking to more people in different kinds of conversations personally and professionally, I’ve started to understand that context becomes more and more vital.
Applying context to how people use their words helps you understand them. Context can also garner trust, attraction, friendliness, and general likability. It can be the difference between getting a sale, nailing an interview, or being understood by a love interest! Being able to identify someone understanding you is essential to communication.
Interpreting someone’s language can be challenging. The reward of taking the time to understand what someone is talking about and what this person means is effortless communication. We have all been in a conversation where we don’t even know why we’re in it. We sometimes choose to stay in a conversation with low interest because we often do not know how to elevate the quality naturally.
I think that throwing out into reality your honest thoughts and desires with someone is a great thing!
“Sorry to interrupt, but I think I want to understand you more when you are talking about (x) to me, that is interesting, and I want to get a better idea of who you are”
Sometimes a little shock to the conversations brings the dialogue alive in a way where the other participant realizes and also acknowledges when it can be better. Don’t ever be afraid to make the situation more “real” or in-depth. We are entertaining conversations at a baseline interest level. This baseline isn’t high, and it’s our mistake for not taking advantage of more opportunities with people while we are talking to them. Think about all the conversations you’ve experienced when it was really to pass the time. You could have taken the opportunity to explore more interesting ideas, experiences, or emotions with that person!
I think we are quick to evaluate what people can offer us. Sometimes being a little bit more curious about people can lead to an interesting daily life.
In this article, I’ve discussed different ways to think about how context plays out in daily conversations, to unique scenarios. Miscommunication is going to happen to some degree, and it’s up to you how wide that valley remains. There is a lot of unknowns when the context of someone’s words is left unchecked. The same goes for you. Without context applied to your reality, people are missing out on what you are saying.
I hope this time looking at communication will help you in future conversations! More ideas to come.