“I thought you said…..,”
“But, you were supposed to…,”
No matter how hard we try to be clear, concise and all around understandable when trying to communicate, there are just times when it all goes sideways. You thought you said this, they – whoever they may be, spouse, child, parent, take your pick – thought you said that, and the whole communication process comes to a screeching halt.
Welcome to Humanity
We as individuals are a mixed bag of personalities and idiosyncrasies to say the least. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) all of us fall into one of 16 unique personality types that show us, and others, what makes us tick. The MBTI test that determines which personality type you fall into was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs, and is based on Jungian theory.
What’s interesting about this test is its amazing accuracy and consistency over time. In other words, if you are an extrovert you will always be an extrovert, and, if you’re an introvert you’ll always be an introvert. The same holds true for many other aspects of our personalities too. If you prefer to have things settled with a direct path to the solution of an issue you will by and large want to always operate that way, and, if you prefer to keep your options open instead of having a direct route to the solution of an issue, you will by and large always operate that way too.
With so many varying types of people walking around on our little green and blue ball of an earth, you can see how there is ample opportunity for miscommunication.
By and large when we communicate we tend to do so from our point of view. After all, who else’s perspective do we know more about than our own? If we’re not aware that we communicate in this way, we tend to make a lot of assumptions about, well, everything.
For example, many times when women in particular are upset, we assume that when we tell our husband or boyfriend that they know what we’re upset about, they actually do. As a result, when they express their confusion, instead of stepping back and explaining ourselves and being very specific about what the issue is, we actually get angrier at them for what we think is their willful ignorance. Maybe some of them are being willfully ignorant, but that’s not the point, by in large it’s an issue about us communicating in such a way that they understand what we’re talking about, not just assuming that they do.
The same can be said for just about anything that becomes an issue in a relationship, and believe me, you will run into a myriad of opportunities for miscommunication. Romantic expectations? We want wine and red roses, he wants a ballgame and a beer. Going out? We want to stay out all night, he wants to come home early. You get the picture, and if you don’t communicate in a way that your loved one can understand, you’ll be disappointed in how things turn out more often than not.
If you really want to effectively communicate, it’s far better to sit down and pay attention to the other person and how they communicate than to expect, or assume, they will conform to your ways of communication.
One of the communication arena’s I really see this playing out lately in, is in the way adult children communicate with their parents. From the outset these relationships can be landmines as far as communication goes, but I’ve found that the more we as adult children can understand our parents personalities and how they communicate, the less opportunity there is for miscommunication.
My mother lives with me, and there aren’t two other people that I’ve ever seen with such different personalities than she and I. She’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert. She’s a foodie, I’m a food minimalist. She loves to shop for, well, just about anything, I try to stay out of the shops as much as I can. And, the list could go on.
My mother loves to cook. It is one of the great joys of her life, and she uses it as a way to express her love. My son and I couldn’t be farther away from her when it comes to showing affection or love. Neither one of us is particularity concerned with food – I think I’ve inadvertently passed my food minimalistic tendencies down to him – but we’ve had to accommodate her desire to express herself this way because we know that this is a part of her that will not change. As a result, we eat the food she prepares trying to be as appreciative of it as we can because that’s her way of communicate how much she loves us. Our way of communicating that we love her is to eat and try to enjoy what she prepares, even is it’s not necessarily the way we would like it.
And, really that’s the basis of communication, caring enough to walk in another’s shoes and communicate to them in a way that they can understand, even if it means eating steak and kidney pie.