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?