I'm Right; You're Right!
By John G. Johnson
This non-stop sending of messages, intentionally, or not, does several things: One, it makes is highly likely that mis-communication will occur. Those among us who've lived a life have experienced the aforementioned, whether it’s you that misinterpreted the sender’s transmission, or the other way around. Two, it calls out a response from the receiver, somewhat like a stimulus response loop. For example, I say “good morning” to you and you respond in turn. Or with the intent of initiating a handshake, I extend my hand, and you do the same (providing you are polite).
Skilled negotiators and communicators understand the role their goals and intent play when crafting and delivering precise messages. They’re also keenly aware of the important role the receiver’s subjective experience of reality plays in how the message is received and interpreted.
Take note, because it’s on the level of subjectivity where mis-communication oftentimes occurs, hence the axiom: “The meaning of the communication is the response you get!”
Case in point: (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent) “Host and Wife” were having a private dinner for “Couple M & W”, new-found friends of theirs. In some cultures, it’s customary to take your shoes off upon entering a home. This is the practise Host and Wife observed as children, and still today as adults.
When Couple M & W arrived they had no idea about Host and Wife’s cultural protocol. So in they came, shoes and all. On top of this, Couple M & W graciously brought with them, because it was their customary practice to do so, to demonstrate politeness and grace, a gift, theirs was a cooked meal, which happened to be meat, for Host and Wife. What Couple M & W also didn't know was that Host and Wife were strict vegetarians.
From Host and Wife’s point of view they were being insulted – from the failure of their guests to remove their shoes, and that meat entered their home.
Couple and Wife realizing the ice-cold atmosphere getting even colder by the moment sincerely and whole-heartedly apologized and made the necessary adjustments. They explained that it was not their intent to offend.
Who’s right versus who’s wrong, in an interaction, sparked by a misunderstanding, is irrelevant, Because from their point of view, and from the intent of all parties involved, all are right!
This subjective world is rich and vast. As such you can't be error proof when sending messages; but you can reduce the likelihood. If a perceived misunderstanding arises, apologize, error correct, explain your intent and find common ground so you and the other person can move forward.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated!” is not only dumb, but a false adage that's gone unchallenged. It's akin to saying "fight fire with fire," when water quenches fire. Like a virus, the former (and latter) has infected various communication models.... “Treat people the way they want to be treated.” Thinking from this view point allows one to behave differently, whether you're the message's sender or receiver. Saying it another way...whether you are the sender or receiver, get to know the other's worldview. You will learn more about each other. And you will literally be discovering how "each other prefers to be served," so to speak!
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