Never confuse the need to win with the need to be heard
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Communication is only as good as the message that has been received.
I run a workshop on communication, and even after we've covered the various means of communicating, the unconscious signals we might be giving off, and the levels of listening, I'm still unsure how much gets through without constant practice.
Any omission is my problem - my "go-to" methods are teaching (speaking), and writing (as you can see), and while I try to pepper those forms of expression with activity, interaction and humour (perhaps you would differ), my preferences of expression may not be yours of attention. That's simply the first issue.
The second is what happens if the message doesn't get through.
In my case I may find out on the evaluation sheet and in feedback and if that is detailed, I can potentially change my approach, but while I am perhaps disappointed in my performance, I am not upset in myself. I know - having been given the floor for the duration of the session - I have at least been acknowledged.
Lack of acknowledgement is one of the biggest barriers to communication. A refusal to hear someone, or a complete misunderstanding, or ignorance of their message is an effective way to anger or upset them further. But it often happens because you have felt the same from them in the first instance.
We know, for example, the country is hugely divided over Brexit, and when one shouts, the other shouts louder. Both sides feel unheard.
Let me dial it back a little with an example:
Imagine this pup could speak and tells you "I'm so ugly so I'm taking my little basket and running away"...what is your reaction?
OK, maybe you'll question the basket, but most often our response will be "Oh, no you're not ugly", or "No, you're soooo cute."
While this may be what you see, you haven't heard the puppy - and now he feels even worse - ugly and unacknowledged. His thoughts - even if they may be askewed - are not validated. This creates a barrier.
The best reponse is to open a dialogue - even if you wish to add your opinion eg "I think you're gorgeous, but why do you say that?" (However, does adding your opinion really contribute - to him - at this point!?)
As a coach my response to something where I disagree is always along the lines of "I'm sad to hear you say that, why do you think that is the case?"
Of course I'm not saying we should counsel each other over our political opinions, but no-matter where your preference lies in a particularly contentious situation please check your own behaviour to see if you aren't just doing the very thing you are accusing your "adversary" of doing - not listening. Because your anger (which often stems from pain) at not being heard, is what you may be encouraging in your opponent...who could have, at one point been an ally in solution. Now you both just want to beat the other down.
Never confuse the need to win with the need to be heard.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt