Interesting question from Manny, a reader based out of California:
“Bob, I really enjoy your suggestion that we constantly define terms so that both people are on the same wavelength. I do it out of habit. A friend of mine sometimes takes it as criticism or as if I am questioning her judgment when in fact I am really just trying to do what you advise to avoid exactly what you call an unnecessary misunderstanding.
“Do you have any suggestions for how to achieve common understanding and commitment between two people so they can agree to take the time to define their terms and meanings, without defensiveness resulting?”
Manny, I thank you for your great question! One thing you can do which is very effective is to put your “clarification question” to your friend in the form of an “I Message.”
For example, “Sue, just for ‘my’ own understanding…” or “Sue, this is only to make sure ‘I’ don’t misunderstand…” and then ask the question of definition, “when you say ‘it won’t be crowded’ about how many people are expected to attend?”
As you know, Manny, the “I Message” puts the onus of misunderstanding on us and removes any potential defensiveness on the part of the other person; thus allowing them to live in the solution as opposed to the problem.
One more thought; if this is a constant challenge between the two of you, discuss this “before” the next time it happens. Let her know your feelings about the issue and suggest to her that whenever you bring up your clarifying questions, it is for self-clarification purposes only, and “not” as a putdown.
Communication techniques between people in an ongoing relationship (personal, business, family, etc.) can be enhanced by discussing your course of action in “advance’, thereby setting the stage for a non-defensive, win-win result.
Thank you again for your terrific question.
Any other ideas from you, my valued readers, as to how Manny and his friend can work on this challenge?
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Thank you Manny for the question. And of course, thank you Bob for the clarification.
I’ve been using this for a long time now and must say that it has eased my relationships with people.
One of the agreements I also try to put in place from the beginning is the permission to “agree to disagree”. Actually, it’s not so much that I put that agreement formally in place with the person I’m talking to. It’s more authorizing myself to disagree, to accept other points of view, by listening intently to the other person and re-phrasing what they say. I try (I say try, I’m far from perfect…) to put myself in their shoes. By using the “I Message” Bob is talking about, I not only think that we take the threatening criticism out of the equation, but it also allow us to better understand the other person’s point of view.
Great question and post. As with all discussions, timing is also important. Pick a time when deadlines are not looming to discuss the issue. The person’s receptiveness, which is better when they are not under a deadline, is crucial to open communication.
F.C., yes, timing is extremely important; especially in this case – the more important the conversation, the more important it is to have proper time to discuss, without outside pressure. Thank you for sharing.
Nadia, all excellent points. And, when you say that you “try, but…far from perfect”…same here, my friend; same here. 🙂
This is a tough one. It is best that Manny gauge the sensitivity of his friend and use those key words/phrases to avoid any offensive statements. My heart goes out to Manny, it seems like he is trying really hard to accommodate his friend to the point of being stressed out… Hope all works out! Another good post, Bob.
I like to lead with things like “I want to make sure I am understanding you correctly…” is that what you mean by an “I statement?” I don’t find people getting offended with these questions when, as you say Bob, I put the onus on me.
Great post, Bob. I’ve become a huge fan of:
“How do you mean?”
I use it every day.
Thank you, Chi Chi!
Steve, thank you! Yes, it ends up clarifying proactively so you don’t have to clarify “remedially” LOL
Hi Russ, yes, that would be a great “I-Message” to use. Thank you for sharing with us!!