We all want to guarantee that we are coming across clearly, that we are being understood. Truthfully, though, we are often misunderstood.
When we are misunderstood we tend to have two reactions:
1. We blame. Often our first instinct is to blame the other party for not caring or for not being open minded. We communicated our ideas well, so goes our reasoning, so there must be a problem on the receiving end.
2. We get defensive. When the other party pushes the blame back on us, we get defensive and start protecting #1, or ourselves. Again we assume the worst: the other party is selfishly considering their own preferences above ours.
Not everyone responds this way, however, and so there is hope.
Recently a friend responded to a misunderstanding by walking back into the situation and doing three things. These are steps anyone can follow.
1. Move towards the other party. Whether you feel the other party was in the right or the wrong, you will only resolve the misunderstanding if you choose to move toward them. Do not wait for them to make the first move.
2. Say how you feel. Using “I” statements, tell the other party how you feel. Example: “When you did this I felt this way.” Misunderstandings in part come from an improper understanding of each party’s feelings and point of view. They will not know how they came across unless you tell them.
3. Take responsibility for the outcome. You must identify what you can do to improve the situation and take responsibility to make it happen. There will almost always be something you can do, and you must do it whether or not the other party reciprocates.
You can never guarantee how someone will respond, but you can guarantee that you took responsibility and did your part, and I have my friend to thank for that reminder.
What misunderstanding do you need to move toward and resolve?