How many times have you started a conversation only to find out midway in the conversation the other side has taken the statements totally out of context resulting in confusion, conflict and hurt feelings?
This can be, and often time is, the everyday conversational experience. The language of individuals can be complicated due to various external situations most individuals are not aware of. Some of these external situations include gender differences, regional differences, cultural background, family upbringing and expression definitions. This does not mean to say that a conversation cannot take place through an enjoyable exchange with ideas and information coming from both sides. Each of these styles is valid and has a place in society. Many times listening to each side of the conversation is what brings us together with new ideas and ways of living life. To be able to say what you want to say and be understood is the best outcome. This, however, may take practice. Being responsible for what it is you want to say and what you want to be heard is up to you.
We all get into conversations we do not think about the outcome, just say what is on the tip of our tongue and then regret it later. Conversations can also be negotiations put out by one side but not picked up by the other side due to misunderstandings.
In her book: You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation, Dr. Deborah Tannen gives an example of a husband and wife driving home in their car.
The woman had asked, ‘Would you like to stop for a drink?’ Her husband had answered, truthfully, ‘No,’ and they hadn’t stopped. He was later frustrated to learn that his wife was annoyed because she had wanted to stop for a drink. He wondered, ‘Why didn’t she just say what she wanted? Why did she play games with me?’ The wife, I explained, was annoyed not because she had not gotten her way, but because her preference had not been considered. From her point of view, she had shown concern for her husband’s wishes, but he had shown no concern for hers.
How many times has this happened to you? Does it feel so confusing sometimes you just want to throw up your hands and say “forget it…do what you want”.
But in the long run, where does that get you? Does it really satisfy you to give up and suppress your feelings? Conversations are not just reserved for public or private relationships. We as individuals go through our lives conversing daily with others whether it is in the grocery store or the boardroom. Our private conversations are just as important if not more so and allow us to enjoy life on a daily basis through dialogue. Is it not important to take some time to understand what the other side is saying and “hear” what they are saying before just giving an answer?
Here are five possible ways of making conversations more understandable, enlightening and enjoyable:
- When talking to someone actually take the time to listen. Don’t try to multitask by being on the computer or other task at the same time.
- Look at the person while they are talking. What are the expressions on their face? Are they smiling, frowning or looking like they are asking a question.
- When you are confused, don’t just jump in and give an answer. Say, “I am confused. I don’t understand what that means.”
- If a question or statement is not clear, repeat the words by saying, “Am I hearing you say…” and then repeat what they said.
- Last but not least, if this is not a good time for a conversation then say so. Make arrangements when you could get back together to discuss the topic.
Isn’t every relationship worth a little more time in listening?
Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. © 1990 You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation