Have you ever had a conversation where you didn’t feel heard or understood? Have you ever become angry at someone else because their words didn’t seem to match their actions? Does it feel like our conversations, maybe more so now, seem to be disconnected?
The reason why communication is usually stilted is because we do not know, own, and express our truth, and because we are taking people at face value instead of looking at the motivation behind their words. One of the most powerful notions I have learned lately is that everything someone says and does, is ALL and ONLY about them. Let that soak in. What people are saying and doing is simply a reflection of their needs, expectations, and perceptions.
Let me give you an example. I help with administrative tasks for my husband’s business. To get done what I need to get done, I need information from him. He is very busy, and it is often difficult to receive the information I need from him. For a while, we had some conflict. I was playing the nagging wife trying to get information from him. He would then, rightfully so, get angry at my nagging.
It wasn’t until we looked at what was under the surface, at the true motivations we both had for our words and actions, that we were able to understand and improve the situation. From my side, I thought my husband didn’t care enough about me to get me the information that I needed. I wasn’t pestering him for information. I was desiring love and attention. From his side, my husband thought my nagging was an attack on his ability to do his job. He thought I was berating him for being incompetent. Much larger topic than just workflow, isn’t it?
To help us navigate the real issue, we need to take a step back, seek to understand, and share our truth.
Take a step back
As I help others with conflict, the first thing I tell them is to remember that everything someone says or does is all and only about them. Taking a step back to uncover, as much as we can, the story behind the story, provides us with understanding, empathy, and the ability to address the true issue. Instead of focusing on what seems to be the issue, when we can see the bigger picture and we can work to resolve the real cause of the conflict.
Seek to understand
The first hurdle here is willingness. It is much more comfortable to be a self-righteous victim and attack the other for what they are saying and doing, than it is to take the higher ground and seek to understand. However, as we saw in my personal example, if I stayed in my self-righteousness and just continued to pester for information, nothing would be solved. It is beneficial to all involved to understand the truth of what is going on.
Share our truth
If we don’t share our truth, if we don’t explain why we are acting the way we are, we can not expect our problem to be solved. The first step here is taking the time and having the courage to look at why a situation is difficult for us. What is our underlying backstory? When we can uncover that and share it, we are then closer to having our needs met.
Look at some of your current challenges. Take a step back. What is the real issue for you? Have you communicated your truth and your needs? Have you sought to understand what may really be going on with the other person? Are you working to solve what is below the surface?