“The biggest communication problem is that we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply.” ~Unknown “The biggest communication problem is the illusion that it has taken place.” “I know you believe you think you know what I said, but … Continue reading
Yeah, well, when you are sitting at a table in your favorite coffee shop gazing into the eyes of the most beautiful human being you’ve ever met in your life, the last thing you are thinking about is a break up. Life is too full of sunshine and joy to ever imagine this could end. In fact, break ups happen to anyone and everyone else. A crushing end is the furthest thing from your mind. Besides, you’re too busy just being in the moment and loving every second.
Now, close your eyes. Breath deeply for a moment. Feel the pure joy. Feel the tangible happiness. Feels great! Right?
Likewise, imagine, you’re sitting in the office of a company that you desperately want to work for. You’ve just completed an interview that you are confident went really well. You admire the manager who has so eloquently conducted the interview and you are certain that together the two of you will do amazing things for the success of the company. You just know it.
Take a mental picture. You’re gonna need it.
Here’s the thing, a lot of my relationship lessons have been learned after-the-fact or at best mid-stream while trying to keep my head above the water so I didn’t completely drown.
Do you know how painful that is? How many painful hours I have spent in tears -wondering, “What went wrong?”
I sat chair side for some of the best dentists in the USA for almost 20 years and one message I heard repeatedly over those years was “preventive medicine is the best medicine” or “early detection increases the chances of a successful outcome.” What we don’t know can and does hurt us. Knowledge is power (just saying that makes me want to dust off my superhero cape, except I don’t have one. Can I borrow yours? Please?). But it’s true.
A cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best-outcome with a side of everything-will-work-out-fine because we are wonderful people approach isn’t working. It’s painful. And confusing.
After my marriage of 18 years ended, I was crushed. I had no self-esteem left. I had no working knowledge for how to go through a divorce (because I wasn’t ever going to be a divorcee) or deal with the court system. My philosophy was justice and truth will prevail (where is that cape?). I learned the hard way that there are loop holes in the system, not knowing what you are doing will kick you right in the seat of the pants and you can loose because the guy on the judge’s bench is just a guy trying to figure it all out. He doesn’t have knowledge about your life therefore, he has to hold the stories up against the law and the best story wins.
Believe me, it was another, “What went wrong?” kind of day. In the infamous words of Madia, “what had happen was” in my emotional state of mind, I handed the decision making power over my life to a guy who knew nothing about me or my values. Believe me, this knowledge is now knowledge with power behind it. I won’t do that again.
We need to know. We need the how to’s for life.
We all desire, hope for and even long for strong relationships that make our lives happier, brighter, more worthwhile. We are ecstatic when we find them. We don’t plan for the very relationships we longed for to become the bane of our existence. Yet, if we don’t learn and apply skills in a proactive way, we are putting our relationships at risk of failure.
And no one wants to fail.
Whether it’s a friendship, business, career, community or family relationship, we enter the relationship full of hope that we can succeed.
I learned the hard way. Please let me share some information about this painful pathway before you start taking the hike.
There are warning signs when a relationship begins to break down. No one goes to sleep one night and wakes up the next morning and announces, “I’m done. I’m not going to do this anymore. It’s been real. I’ve had a lot of fun but I’m just stopping now”. Long before you quit, you can see big flashing red signs that say, “This is not working for me!”
Communication breakdown is the most common reason given for failed relationships of all kinds. It’s like the doorway to the dark side. Once you walk through it, the temptation to give into other destructive behaviours seems like a vacuum tunnel that pulls you away from your core focus.
If you want to guarantee relationship failure all you have to do is allow communication to make a wrong turn and travel the pathway of criticism followed by contempt then defensiveness and finally stonewalling. This pathway is fatal. You can avoid even stepping one foot onto it.
Strong communication is a two-way street. The issue at hand is considered and all participants in the relationship contribute. Ideas are weighed and a decision is made. Gosh, that sounds so simple. Bam. Problem solved. Right?
Effective communication is like a dance. Moving together provides a beautiful flow. You might step on each other’s toes a few times but you correct the wrong move and continue dancing. The problem starts at the point where the ideas we offer are met with criticism. “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard!”, “Who thinks like that? Stupid idea”, “Look, my way of thinking is the only way to go and well, I can’t even imagine why you think like you do.” Critical reactions leave us fearful of opening up. We feel foolish, rejected and unheard. If this occurs often, we make the decision to shut down. “It’s not worth it. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself”.
This feels like a safe solution. Problem is the heart then takes a second step on the pathway. Criticism leads to contempt. Dear one, contempt starts quietly in the deepest, darkest part of your heart. Left unchecked it spreads like wild fire. Believe me. Contempt is the birthing place for disrespect. Here, we might begin to speak under our breath and say things like (I’ll be nice here although usually, we aren’t so kind) “Idiot”, “Jerk”. This stage is most common for women. Do you recognise these comments: “Fine”, “Nothing”, “Go ahead”, and “Whatever”? We joke about women giving these answers. But it’s really not funny. She is signalling to you (spouse, boss, friend) that you aren’t valuing her input and she resents it. Feelings of disgust and disdain begin to surface to the point that she is disregarding the person altogether.
Contempt shifts the focus from the issue to how we now feel about the person. Remember, you have heard me share the wisdom that as a man thinks in his heart so is he? Basically, that means what you entertain in your heart becomes behaviour. In the case of contempt this is where it starts getting ugly. The saying “beautiful inside and out” turns to “ugly to the bone”. Contempt is where this change begins.
We might think that we are hiding our true feelings even if we don’t say “it” to their face. But we’re not. Contempt shows. It begins to scream at the other person, “I can’t stand you!”
Still have that mental picture stored in your mind’s eye? This is not how you felt about this person when you first met, is it? The warm fuzzies are quickly dissipating.
Typically, when contempt is used the next step is defensiveness. One or both parties can experience this. Becoming defensive is a very normal response to being treated with contempt. Defensiveness is really a way of blaming the other person. In effect, we are saying the problem isn’t me, it’s you. The original problem isn’t resolved but the conflict has just escalated.
Once the conflict has escalated, one or both parties will tune the other person OUT! This is known as building up walls or stonewalling. This is more common in men. It’s what my husband calls “too hard”. I have learned in NZ that if someone here says, “Too hard” whether it’s work, marriage, or a friendly conversation, they are telling the world that they are done. They are not talking about it anymore. They are not responding. They are finished. Now, my husband and I have learned to stop for a while, go think about our approaches and come back to it later.
We have finally come up with a plan that refocuses us back to the issue so that we are working together again. However, if you don’t rethink the “how to” approach communication properly this is the stage that people quit. Marriages end. Teenagers just walk away. I have quit jobs. I have quit and sat in silence for far too many days on end with family members. I have walked away from friendships without giving the relationship a fair chance. I think we all have. This left me miserable and wounded deep with my heart. This is where we begin to misplace our ability to trust other people and close our hearts so tightly that no one can get in.
Closed down behind a stone wall is not what we bargained for. We want to be happy. We want to succeed. We want abundance.
We can turn this whole thing around or prevent even travelling down this pathway if we are willing to look honestly at the warning signs and change direction.
It can be as simple as applying the right skills. If the situation is advanced to a dangerous place, help might be necessary. However, preventive measures are more beneficial than attempting to repair or revive a failing relationship.
No matter where you are in your relationship journey, you can get off this destructive path.
Let me know what you think. Was this helpful? Do you know someone who might benefit from this information, please feel free to share it with them.
The sun is shining bright today, I think I’ll take my husband out for a walk.
Have a great day!
good communication is an important foundation for strong relationships.
communication breakdowns occur when strong, negative emotions overshadow the message. as women, we can be very passionate when we feel strongly about an issue.
there is a temptation to release the tension caused by angry emotions by yelling, slamming doors or other outbursts. however, an angry approach adds fuel to the fire. the emotion then becomes the focus. the message you are trying to communicate can become diminished or misunderstood. as a result nothing positive is achieved.
expressing emotion is an important part of communication as well. the key is to communicate them so that you can move past them, not fuel them.
when we find ourselves in a confrontation, it’s important to remember these 2 things:
- an answer should be given – the injured person should not wrap himself in sullen silence
- and that answer should be gentle
gentleness can be firm without being harsh.
i was visiting my daughter the other day and my grandchildren wanted to tell me about a conflict they had with each other.
each was passionate about their position. the end result of the conflict was not very good, even from their young perspectives.
it caused me to realise how important it is to teach children to communicate what they are feeling, communicate their feelings, value each person’s feelings, respect another person’s boundaries, forgive and move on.
so, we practiced.
at first, neither wanted to participate. i had to respect that.
within a few minutes, my granddaughter agreed and decided she did want to practice what she should do.
as she and i began to practice how to communicate, my grandson decided that he would practice as well…because it meant that he would be heard.
by the end of the exercise, they had practiced communicating to the their sibling what they wanted to say, asking for forgiveness, and giving forgiveness.
life skills are not caught…they are taught.
when we are given the appropriate tools, we have a better chance at being successful.
and we all want to be successful at whatever we attempt to do.
conflicts are difficult. they can be painful but they are not impossible to resolve.
good communication skills can help us to focus on the issue and not become side tracked.
you don’t have to remain silent if the issue is important to your heart.
your response can either help or prevent a successful outcome.
the choice is fully yours to make.
anger will ignite an unsuccessful outcome and gentleness will defuse the situation.
which direction is she spinning?
i was watching an episode of National Geographic’s, Brain Games this morning. on the show, they were explaining that the way the brain and eyes process information determines how the information is perceived. fascinating. what an amazing machine this body of mine is. complex and interesting.
the photo of the spinning woman. this is called a reversible or ambiguous image. because there is no depth cues…my brain can process the information so that i see her turning both directions. this boggles my mind. first, the creativity of the mind that created it. well done! secondly, it shows me another level of how my mind works. this mind that i have lived with all my life. the one that i have trusted not to lead me wrong. the one i reason with and so often am absolutely convinced that i have “it” right…whatever the “it” is at the time. right? don’t we argue black and blue sometimes that we did not put the keys anywhere else but on the table…they have a place and they are always in their place…except at this moment. so sure that i did not put them any where else. then, i’m doing something completely different, not even thinking about the keys and poof…there they are. i have a one second flash of the last moment those keys were in MY hands and i put them…(not there…i never put them there…why are they there?)…on the bathroom counter. now it’s coming back to me; my hands full, my weak kidneys screaming at me, and i made a mad dash for the restroom. i sat them down and forgot. ouch! problem is, i just knew that it was not me that moved them from their rightful place. UGH! i just hate eating crow…but sometimes, i get a big ole mouthful. i’m amazed. stunned. i just didn’t see it going that way. i was so sure.
Do you see a young woman or an old woman?
one of the experiments this morning demonstrated how our peripheral vision allows us to recognize movement such as someone walking up behind us or a car approaching but is not focused enough for us to pick details. a group of guys were to pick a cheerleading team for the cheerleader that was holding a huge sign with an “x” on it. it was revealed to the participants that more than 50% of the chosen teams were guys in cheerleader uniforms. i love a challenge so i was focusing my mind. telling my mind that it would not fail me and i would get this right…ummm…no, i didn’t. i picked guys for the cheerleading squad as well…even after i knew that there were guys in the line up. really?
the mouse on the table is broken.
the mouse on the table is eating cheese.
my brain attempts to find a picture of the word mouse so it kind of pauses until the end of the sentence where it can connect the concept with the picture it wants to give me so that i understand what i have read. then it zooms back to the word mouse and drops the picture so i can grab the concept.
my mind immediately took me to a conversation my husband and i had the first month i was in NZ. i asked him:
“would you light the grill for me so i can cook dinner?
he stared at me blankly…”how do i do that?”
it’s a grill. who doesn’t know how to light the grill.
a grill resided in the garage…so, he has done this before. that look, though. i couldn’t understand. he was looking at me like i just stepped off an alien ship. what in the world? i walked him out to the garage, pointed to the grill…”this…light this”. he smiled and replied, “oh, you want me to light the BBQ? I can do that”. Da…!
what i didn’t know that day was that to my NZ husband a grill is what i (an American) call a broiler. the look…it was because when i asked him to light the grill, his mind could not register the concept of lighting the stove. when i walked him out to the garage, his mind processed and the light came on…”she means the BBQ”. we have had many hilarious and not so hilarious conversations that are similar. now, when we are communicating and the other person just isn’t getting “it”, we stop and ask, “wait, what does _____ this mean to you?” whew. has helped heaps.
my brain is like a computer processing my perception of life, words, pictures, songs, people through what i call “a filter” of my personal experiences, culture and gender. it becomes my understanding and representation of all things.
in the book of Romans in the Bible, i am told to “renew” my mind. a wisdom nugget. in light of what i have shared above, that means to me, i have to bring my mind up to date. when i am making my judgements about my journey and the people in my journey, what happened yesterday and the many days before are unrelated to the situation at hand today. i might need to apply a principle or learned lesson to the situation but i can not let my “filter” rule my actions and reactions.
skilful communication is so important.
- understand the person or situation i am dealing with. differing genders, cultures, family traditions, educational backgrounds, even sibling order and personalities play important roles in how we communicate with other people and in varying situations.
- listen carefully. it is important to make sure i am hearing accurately, not forming an interpretation in my mind.
- request clarification. rather than making an immediate reaction to what has been presented, i need to feedback what i have heard and clarify that it has, in fact, been processed by my mind as it was intended. if my mind filters the information, this will help me get my mind up to date if it is wondering back to a place in my history in an incorrect way.
- be open minded. it’s alright to allow myself to accept that “i might be wrong”. i often say, “i think i’m right but i might be wrong”. this allows me the opportunity to further process the situation. allow time to validate in my mind what is accurate.
- maintain healthy boundaries. i need healthy boundaries for others and for myself. it is important for others to understand the extent to which i will go based on my value system. it just important that i have healthy boundaries for myself. using these boundaries around my value system, i can regulate and renew my own mind in order to keep me from going off on a tangent that jeopardize my well-being.
i struggled with bulimia as a young woman. i must make sure i don’t cross my healthy boundaries concerning self-image. an outfit that does not fit properly for my body type is not allowed to communicate to me that i am fat…ugly…and further. when i look into the mirror, i must understand that i have a history of looking at my body through the eyes of the bulimia. when i hear myself say, “that looks awful!”, i need to clarify the message. i must renew my mind to accept that i am at an acceptable, achievable weight. i must make sure that i focus the message being communicated through what i see in the mirror (and in my mind) is not the woman of years past. i have chosen the wrong outfit. my self-image is not under attack.
this can be applied when we feel lonely. the mind might communicate the message that we are friendless or that there is no one who cares for us.
when we make mistakes, the message might be presented that we always fail.
a tone of voice might present the feeling of being ordered around or controlled.
today is a completely new day. new lessons can be learned. decisions adjusted. changes made. new creativity experienced. our mind and how it perceives the stimuli coming it at it, needs to be weighed carefully. renewing the mind brings it update, to the moment in time where you are in your journey. understanding that things are not always as they seem gives us the freedom to take a new look, a new approach…live today to it’s fullest.
take another look…
…are you seeing what you think you see about your life.
here’s to renewed minds,