Who Do Your Words Say You Are?

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Modern humans are worse at reading body signals than their
ancestors because we are now distracted by words.
Pease, The Definitive Book on Body Language.

 

Remember Robin from Part 1 and Part 2? She was given the assignment to evaluate an individual’s communication.

In Part 2 she was People Watching at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she observed a couple having an intense argument.

After the woman threw the phone down and stomped off, the guy sat with his head in his hands, not moving. Robin, training to be a coach, just couldn’t resist the opportunity to offer some help.

She walked over to the table across from where he sat. He didn’t seem to notice that she was there. Finally, she reached out and gently touched his arm. He slowly looked up. His eyes met her’s.

“May I help you,” he asked.

“I’m Robin,” she said extending her hand.

“I’m Mark. Did you want something?” he said.

Robin, hesitated when she heard the slight edge of irritation in his voice, but decided to continue. She took a deep breath, “Can I help you?” she said.

He looked up with eyebrows raised, head turned slightly to the side and mouth dropped open like he wanted to say something, but not sure what to say. Finally, he said, “Why do you think I need your help?”

Robin dropped her eyes to the floor for a minute then looked him in the eyes. “I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the lady that just left.”

Mark’s forehead wrinkled as his face started turning red. Robin noticed that he began clenching his teeth, “How dare you listen to our conversation.”

Robin stopped and thought about some of the conversation techniques she had learned.

What Are Your Words Saying?

In part 1 we looked at our spoken words and the verbal elements, such as vocal tone, pitch, speed of speech, and volume. In part 2 we explored body language and what it says about our spoken word.

If our vocal elements and body language don’t back up our words it often means we can’t be trusted, we don’t keep our word, or perhaps, you’re trying to scam someone.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about words. The power of Life or Death is in our words (18:21). We can crush and destroy others with our words (11:9) or we can give others helpful words of encouragement that is like a tree of life (10:21, 32, 15:4). Wise words bring benefits to many (12:14) and kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and health for the body (16:24).

We do have a choice in our communication. We can bring life or we can bring death to a person or a situation. But, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. Our words come from the soul and reflect who we really are. And our nonverbal communication (body language) tells whether we are telling the truth and can be trusted or not.

Who do your words say you are? What are you communicating to others? Are your words saying you are a person they want to get to know or do business with? Or are you saying you can’t be trusted and are a person to avoid?

Social Context

Different Cultures

For communication to be correctly and fully understood, we must consider the social context. We also understand that different cultures have different meanings for words and body language, only when we can step into their shoes and have empathy, can we accurately understand the meaning and be able to communicate effectively. Regardless of the culture, words and body language occurs together predictably.

In doing the research on body language I found a plethora of material on how to read body language, what to do to get the desired results in different social settings, like, a job interview, a date, and personal relationships.

As I thought about this I came up with questions I’d rather ask. I had to ask myself first.

Am I being viewed the way I want to be viewed? Does my body language backup my words? Do others view me as a good communicator? What do I need to change to be a good communicator? Would I like to be married to me? Would I like having me for a boss? Would I like having me for a parent or grandparent? Do I offer empathy to others? When I am involved in a conversation with others, do my words revolve around me or the other person? Do I really listen to others and exercise attentive listening or am I off in my own head?

To be honest I’m not sure I can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions.

 

How do we want to be viewed

Until I started this paper, I didn’t really think about how I am viewed by others or if I was viewed as a good communicator and somebody others wanted to be around.

Unfortunately, we put too much trust in our own perception of how we feel we are viewed by others. We rarely take a good look at how things really are, how we really come across to others. We have a view of ourselves that we think is reality, but is it? Is that how others see us?

Have you received body language from others that causes you to think about how the other person might view you? I recently had an experience that caused me to stop and think.

I had gone to lunch with a lady that I knew casually. We had been together in a group, but not alone. At lunch, I discovered that she was very quiet and didn’t initiate any conversation topics or have many responses.

I became very intimidated by her silence and began talking more about myself than I should. Toward the end of our lunch, the heel of the palm of her hand was supporting her cheek with the index finger of her hand pointing upwards. The look on her face said she was bored and we probably wouldn’t be doing lunch again any time soon.

Instead of asking more questions about her to get to know her better, I overcompensated as I had flashes of both of us sitting with nothing to say. Bad communication.

 

Improve Your Communication Skills

Listen. Listen attentively and unconditionally to the other person’s value and needs and what they have to say.

Be Interested. Show the other person you are interested in what they have to say, who they are, and their concerns. Show them they are important.

Use Your Voice. Voice your approval of the other person on a regular basis. Give them honest encouragement, positive strokes and praise with a sincere tone in your voice.

Show Empathy. To show sincere empathy, identify with or vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitude of the other person.

Empathy is trying to view the world from the other person’s point of view, to see what they see and how they see it. Everyone has their own unique perspective on life and on what they see around them. No two people will describe things exactly the same.

“The path to good communication is accepting the fact that every human being is a distinctly unique individual – and thinking how good that is. No two people are alike, not even identical twins.” Denis Waitley, author of Seeds of Greatness.

 

Robin and Mark

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Robin sat across from Mark for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, Mark looked up, “You’re still here? Why do you care anyway?” he said in a real snarky voice.

“Well, as I said, I overheard you and, what was her name?”

“Marty”

“I overheard you and Marty in a heated argument. Actually, everybody around these tables heard it,” Robin said.

“So, why do you care? I don’t see anybody else over here butting into my business,” Mark said, eyes glaring as he straightened up. “Who are you anyway? Somebody the mob boss sent after me?”

Robin Thinking About Her Words

Robin sat quietly looking at the cement floor under the canopy. She’d been telling everyone she was going to be a counselor or a coach, but every time someone asked her for help she always had an excuse; she didn’t know enough, she was busy, or something. A question ran through her mind, “Do you really want to help or is this just school?” Her words had been saying she was a counselor or coach, but her nonverbal communication said it was just school, she was a fake. She had a choice back-up her words or not.

Robin straightened up and looked at Mark, “You asked who I am and why I care? Well, I’m a student at the university preparing to be a counselor or a coach, haven’t decided which yet. I would like to help you if I can.”

“Oh, you want me to be your first client, is that it? You want to experiment on me. No thank you. I don’t want to be anybody’s guinea pig,” Mark said in almost a scream.

“What is it you need?” she asked in a low tone.

“I need $1500. That’s what I need. You heard our argument. Why are you still here?” he said his voice still loud with a hint of sarcasm. “Do you have $1500 for me?”

“I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t have any money. I’m a broke college kid,” she said staring at the cement floor again. “But, I do know someone who could help, his name is Jesus.”

“Oh, so now you’re a preacher?” Mark laughed. “That’s really going to help me.”

Mark started to get up.

“No, please. Can we talk a little longer?” she said reaching out her hand to him.

“I don’t have the answers for you, but I work part-time with a recovery group at my church. The leader is an ex-gambler. He’s always telling the group how Jesus is the answer. How Jesus can help you turn this around.”

“Is Jesus going to give me the $1500 before my wife divorces me?  Money from heaven,” once again with a snarky laugh.

“No, I don’t think money is going to fall from heaven. But, I do know that LeRoy, the leader, works with the person and the people they owe money to so nobody gets hurt.”

Robin saw Mark brush away a tear from his eye. She reached out to touch his arm. Mark looked up. “They said they would hurt Marty if I didn’t have the money for them by Monday. I’ve been here thinking about how I could get the money.”

“And?” Robin said.

Result of Marks Actions and Words

Mark was quiet for several minutes then wiped away another tear, “The only thing I could think of was to rob one of these vendors in the Ferry Building. But, I don’t have a gun. I’d probably be shot and killed then they’d still grab Marty and do whatever to her.

“Then, why don’t you come with me to see LeRoy. I know he can help.”

“But, you said Jesus was the answer. I don’t understand?” Mark said looking at her quizzically. 

“Jesus is the answer. LeRoy will introduce you. Let me call him. He can meet us down here.”

“Okay, I guess,” Mark said looking around as if to find a way out of this situation while Robin made the call.

“Good news,” she said. “LeRoy is inside at the coffee house. He said to come on in, it’s quieter inside.”

Robin stood up and started collecting all of her things. Mark got up hesitantly. He started walking in the opposite direction. Robin, with her laptop and backpack, ran to catch up.

“You don’t want to do this?” she asked. “You said you wanted to.”

“Well, that’s one of my problems, I guess. I don’t always say what I mean or do what I say,” he said.

“Then it’s time to change it. This way,” she said pointing to the entrance. She stopped and turned to see if Mark was following.

“Okay, I guess it can’t hurt. How much worse can things get?” he said.

Tagged with: , , , ,

Are We Effective Communicators in This World Of Distractions Part 2

Photo by bonneval sebastien on Unsplash

Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

“Body language is the use of physical behavior, expressions, and mannerisms to communicate nonverbally,
often done instinctively rather than consciously.” –
HelpGuide.org

Robin On Assignment

Robin, a junior in college, was working on a degree in Social Psychology. She had been given the assignment of observing individuals communicating in a busy, distracting environment. She was to report how individuals interacted with each other, the vocal elements they used, and their body language.

The ABC Coffee Shop close to campus had been her first location, but it proved to be too noisy and distracting. She heard a couple of conversations but did not hear enough for a full report. She had to hear enough to connect the words spoken with the nonverbal body language.

Her next location was the Ferry Building Marketplace on the pier. There were many restaurants with tables on the sidewalk and inside. It was a popular place for sidewalk musicians and, all around, a great place to just hang-out.

Elements of Communications

In the scientific paper “Body Language Classification and Communicative Context” by Jianxue Yin,  the elements of communication are grouped for better understanding of how they work together and separately. They are divided into three groups, Verbal, Posture, and Social. This post, Part 2, will address the Posture Group which is nonverbal or body language. Part 1 has already addressed the Verbal Group.

Posture Group

The Posture Group or Nonverbal made up of gestures, actions, expressions, even the Social Group elements, attire, hairstyle, and makeup, are all driven by emotions. It tells the person’s true emotion and/or attitude.  For example, each gesture is like a word having its own meaning. It’s only when the gestures are put together with other verbal or nonverbal communication that the meaning can be understood.

In good communication, the posture message correlates accurately with the verbal message. So, as you learn to accurately read Posture Group communication you will be better able to determine if the nonverbal message supports the verbal communication for full meaning.

NonVerbal Communication

Your nonverbal communication which includes the way you listen, love, move, dress, touch, eye contact, interact, react, and your need for personal space communicates a lot of information to the other person whether you intend it or not or whether you are aware of it or not. It influences how you are viewed by others.

It reveals whether you’re listening, being truthful, interested, bored, distracted or if you have completely checked out of the conversation. All of this information is contained outside of the spoken word.

Trust is created when your words and nonverbal communications are in agreement, but when they aren’t or your behavior isn’t supportive, you create tension, distrust, confusion, and perhaps even, anger in the other person. When all of these elements don’t match up, you send mixed messages that leave others wondering if you can be trusted or if they want to develop a connection with you.

“Being ‘perceptive’ means being able to spot the contradictions between someone’s words and their body language.” – Pease

 

Emotions

Body language is a very significant indicator of human emotion and expression. The nonverbal cues you give off usually have an emotional base or are affected by the emotions you feel.

Emotions affect every communication element group. They motivate you to take action and assist you in making quick decisions by giving you feedback about the other person’s nonverbal communication and/or the situation at hand.

Much of your nonverbal communication is subconscious. Your subconscious mind understands and interprets the nonverbal messages you receive from other people without you, necessarily, knowing it with your conscious mind.

Many times you will hear somebody say, “I sense”, or “I have a hunch”, or “I feel something” about a person or situation.  It’s possible they have detected something in the other person that they like or are curious about and explore more fully. Or it might mean that they have detected that the person’s body language does not match their words and they want to avoid possible confrontation or conflict.

When we say that someone is intuitive, we are actually saying that they know how to read a person’s body language and to compare them to their verbal cues.

 

Body Language

We often use the terms “body language” and “nonverbal communication” almost interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Nonverbal communication is communication without using words – simple. Body language is a segment of nonverbal communication that focuses on gestures, body postures, and facial expressions. The main purpose of “body language” is to communicate the speaker’s mood, emotions, and attitude to emphasize their spoken words.

Remember, much of our body language is triggered by our subconscious. Therefore, you must feel confident and in charge in order to give off confident body language. Also, If you are distracted by checking your phone, Facebook, thinking about what you are going to say next or being distracted by anything else you will miss the nonverbal cues given by the speaker.

You must be focused and engaged in the conversation for your body language to be appropriate for the conversation.

If you do not catch the cues being sent by the other person, you may misconstrue their message or respond inappropriately. So, the key is to pay attention to the words and body language of the other person.

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are.
Be kind with what you wordlessly say.”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

 

  • Facial Expressions (smile, eye contact, frown): There is an English proverb that says, “The face is the index of the mind”. Emotions that one feels are immediately shown on the face. Facial expressions signal different feelings and intentions, such as anger, happiness, surprise, fear, disgust, sadness, aggressive, and neutrality. To see a complete list see changingminds.org.

According to Barbara and Allan Pease authors of “The Definitive Book of Body Language,” the basic facial expressions are universal. For example, nodding indicates a ‘yes’ or affirmation. Shaking the head side-to-side indicate ‘no’ or negative.

 

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

People frown or scowl when they’re sad or angry.
Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

This guy looks slightly down and sideways avoiding eye contact.
Photo by Sergio Souza on Unsplash

  • Raised Eyebrows:  According to changingminds.org, raised eyebrows can indicate several different things.

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Fear: Raised eyebrows with eyes wide, closed or pointed down;
mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in and head down.
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Image by nadine coco from Pixabay

Desire: Raised eyebrows with a smile and a slight tilt of the head.
Image by Nadine Coco from Pixabay

Image by fsHH from Pixabay

Interest: Steady gaze with the eyes and raised eyebrows.
Image by fsHH from Pixabay

 

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Surprise: Raised eyebrows, mouth dropped open, eyes wide,
and head tilted back or to the side.
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

  • Smiling: When a smile is genuine its subconsciously transmits; happiness, friendliness, warmth, liking, and affiliation. Therefore, if you smile a lot you will be perceived as being likable, friendly, warm, and approachable.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

This guy exudes confidence with this smile.
Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

  • Body Posture: We communicate different messages by the way we walk, talk, stand, and sit.

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

The man standing straight, but not rigid, and leaning slightly in the woman’s direction communicates that he is approachable, receptive, and friendly. Hands of both are open with palms up, which indicates openness and honesty. His facial features indicate his interest in what she has to say. They are also Mirroring each other’s Body Language as explained below.


Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

If a person turns their back on another person or looks at the floor or ceiling it shows they are avoiding communication or they are not interested, as demonstrated above.

  • Mirroring Body Language: If you are in a conversation with another person and the other person mirrors your body language it’s an indicator that the conversation is going well. According to a study at Uppsala University in Sweden, the mirroring effect seems to be subconscious unless it is in opposition to what you are feeling. (See image above)
  • Gestures: When a person does not use gestures they are considered to be boring and stiff. According to changingminds.org, the movement of the arms and hands tend to be more associated with speech and language than other body movements. They are viewed as deliberate movements to either emphasize the spoken words or the gesture has a very specific meaning apart from the words.

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash
His present body language seems to indicate that he is not an engaging speaker.

It’s also a scientific fact that gestures give away the person’s true intentions. Body language is an outward reflection of a person’s internal emotions.

  • Shoulder Shrug: According to Allan Pease, the shrug is a “good example of a universal gesture that is used to show that a person doesn’t know or doesn’t understand what you are saying.”

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

“It’s a multiple gesture that has three main parts,” they continue. “Exposed palms to show nothing is being concealed in the hands, hunched shoulders to protect the throat from attack, and raised brow, which is a universal, submissive greeting.”  

  • Openness – Open Palm: According to Pease, an open palm is associated with “truth, honesty, allegiance, and submission.”

Photo by yugdas manandhar from Pexels

Photo by Yugdas Manandhar from Pexels

When a person wants to be open and honest they will often hold one or both hand open, palms up.
This appears to be a completely subconscious gesture that gives you the intuitive feeling that they are telling the truth.

  • Pointed Finger with Closed Hand: When some use a closed hand with a pointed index finger, they are trying to show dominance. Subconsciously, this gesture provokes negative feelings in their listeners. It is also a sign to “leave now.”

Image by Kristin Baldeschwiler from Pixabay

Image by Kristin Baldeschwiler from Pixabay

  • Crossed Legs: Psychologically, crossed legs show that the person is mentally, emotionally, and physically closed. It also indicates a submissive or defensive attitude.

Image by jamesoladujoye from Pixabay

Image by James Oladujoye from Pixabay

  • Crossed Arms: Crossed arms typically signal defensiveness and being emotionally and mentally closed. But in reading body signals, you must be aware that people often cross their arms when they are physically cold.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

 

  • Closed: When a person is closed off, lying or trying to avoid contact they will display gestures similar to below.

 

Image by Hilary Clark from PixabayCommon Lying Gestures:

      • Cover the Mouth.
      • Touch the Nose.
      • An Itchy Nose.
      • The Eye Rub.
      • The Ear Grab.
      • The Neck Scratch.
      • The Collar Pull.
      • Fingers-in-the-Mouth.
                    • Fidget.
                    • Say things that are inconsistent.
                    • Hesitate or Talk slower.
                    • Avoid Eye Contact.
                    • Change The Subject.

Barbara and Allan Pease authors of “The Definitive Book of Body Language

Changingminds.org

  • Touch: Touch is used to express a wide variety of emotions. It is a very powerful form of nonverbal communication but must be managed carefully. Touching is used in many rituals in different cultures. Acceptable modes of touch also vary depending on the gender, age, status, intimacy and cultural background of the individuals. For example, the most widely used form of touching is to shake hands or hugging as a greeting or departure.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

  • Space and Proximity: Distance in communications expresses the degree of intimacy and acceptance. It can also indicate anger or aggression when a person gets into another’s personal space uninvited. In some aggressive situation, people will actually go nose to nose. People usually show some sign of discomfort when another invades their personal space.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

  • Silence: Is a very powerful communication tool that can be either positive or negative. As a positive tool, it can show attentiveness and respect. As a negative tool, it may mean that the person has lost interest, been distracted, or perhaps angry, refusing to respond with words.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

 

Robin At The Ferry Building Marketplace

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

She arrived at the Ferry Building Marketplace on a Saturday about 10 am. As usual, the marketplace was swarming with people. Most of the outside tables were already occupied, but she was able to find one close to the band. The tables were close enough that she could hear all the conversations clearly. She exuded confidence. She would definitely be able to complete her assignment, now.

As she settled in, she noticed the band. The banjo and bass players were playing, but the other two were not. The clarinet player had his head turned talking to the saxophone player, but the sax player was looking at the people on the street and didn’t seem to be paying any attention. She saw the sax player shrug his shoulder like he didn’t know or didn’t care about what the other guy was saying. Neither of the players was paying attention to the other musicians even though a small crowd had gathered to listen.

The couple standing closest to the band with three kids seemed very relaxed, happy, having a good time. The oldest boy was trying to do the “floss” to the music. The youngest boy was trying his best to imitate him.

Robin overhead a couple at the next table. She turned the webcam on her laptop toward the couple to record the scene.

“What do you mean, I can’t buy that dress?” the woman said with her pitch raised and hands on her hips staring intently at him. “I just put my check in the bank. There’s plenty of money in the account. Besides, who are you to tell me I can’t spend my own money?”

He crossed his arms pulling the hood of his sweatshirt down to cover his forehead. He dropped his eyes to the floors and said nothing.

“I’m talking to you,” she said a little louder as if she thought he couldn’t hear her.

“I don’t want to talk about it here,” he said taking a couple of small steps backward.

She took steps toward him. Now almost nose to nose, “Talk to me. What’s going on?” she said in a very low pitched, low volume that conveyed her seriousness.”

He said nothing as he stepped back even further as if to escape her wrath.

“There’s a problem with the account,” he finally said hesitantly, pulling the sweatshirt hood down over his face even further.

“What kind of a problem?” she said, now in his face and barely audible.

“Ah, ah, the credit card company took too much out in the last payment. The account is short,” he said avoiding all eye contact rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense. By the way, where were you the other night when you were late getting home?”

“I had to work late.”

“You’re lying. I drove by and your car wasn’t there. Did you go to the casino?”

Total silence.

She grabbed his phone and logged into the mobile banking app, “We’re overdrawn by a $1000. You’ve got to be kidding,” she said as she threw his phone on the ground and stomped off.

He slumped to the bench, elbows on his knees holding his head.

Robin looked at her notes and video of the scene. A smile spread across her face. “I’ve got this.”

 

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Are We Effective Communicators In This World Of Distractions Part 1

 

Image by natureaddict from Pixabay

Image by natureaddict from Pixabay

We’re surrounded by distractions. Whether it’s emails, phone calls, text messages, social media notifications, or people entering and leaving your workspace, those distractions end up eating a good portion of your time.

John Rampton

 

The Assignment

Photo-by-Mimi-Thian-on-Unsplash

Photo-by-Mimi-Thian-on-Unsplash

Robin, a junior in college, working on a degree in Social Psychology, was given the assignment of observing individuals communicating in a busy, distracting environment. She was to report how individuals interacted with each other, the vocal elements they used, and their body language.

Every morning Robin stopped at the ABC Coffee Shop to get her Chocolate Hazelnut Expresso on her way to school. Being close to the university, the coffee shop was always very busy. You could find groups of students and faculty discussing the latest hot topics. The shop was large enough for 10-15 tables but small enough so you could hear snippets of just about every conversation.

Robin sat at her usual table, in the back corner where she could watch the others. She loved to watch people, perhaps that’s why she chose Social Psychology. She was curious about what made people tick.

The teacher had told them about the assignment, but would officially give it to them during the next class. She was sure the coffee shop would be the ideal setting.

Communications

A significant part of our modern communications and relationships depend on body language which is a nonverbal segment.  In the scientific paper “Body Language Classification and Communicative Context” by Jianxue Yin,  the elements of communication are grouped for better understanding of how the elements work together and separately. The groups consist of Verbal Group, Posture Group, and the Social Group. Part 1 of this post will address the Verbal Group segment of effective communication in this world of distractions.

The Verbal Group deals with voice elements and emotions involved in sending and receiving verbal messages.

 

Emotions

Emotions affect every communication element group. They motivate you to take action and assist you in making quick decisions by giving you feedback about the other person’s nonverbal communication, the situation at hand, and the meaning of their words.

Emotions are contagious. They can interfere with your ability to communicate, especially communicating nonverbal messages. If you enter into a conversation with someone or a group and you are stressed, upset, angry, or any other emotion it’s very likely that you will transfer your emotions to the other person resulting in a bad situation.

For example, entering a conversation when you are stressed may cause you to defensively misread the messages sent by the other person resulting in you sending confusing messages.

“93/7 Rule: 93% of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior & tone;
only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words.”

John Stoker, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold Real Conversations That Create Respect,
Build Relationships, and Get Results

Since 93% of our communication is nonverbal behavior, it behooves us to master the art of nonverbal language or, at least, become more aware of our body language and other nonverbal cues that we give to others, which we will cover in the next few posts.

Verbal Group

As we all know, verbal or oral communications involve a person sending messages to another person or a group using speech. The communication is successful when the message sent is received by the listener and both parties understand the message. Because of the plethora of messages sent and received daily over phone, text, internet, television, radio, etc., we must deal with the difficulty of being heard and understood above the cacophony of other messages.

First, the listener must be able to receive the message. It’s not always easy to get the other person’s attention to receive the message. Is the other person on their phone, Facebook, or distracted by some other electronic device?

Cell phones and the internet were designed with the idea of giving us all the information and drawing us together socially. But in many cases people get so engrossed in their phone, video games, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter (should I go on) that they don’t hear or see anything or anyone else.

Moreover, a person with a disorder where they are easily distracted, such as ADHD, sometimes it’s next to impossible to get their listening attention. If you’ve read any of my other post you know that my husband is ADHD. He is the absolute greatest guy, don’t get me wrong, but learning to deal with the characteristics of ADHD has been challenging.

It’s not just about people who have a disorder who are distracted by our “modern technology.” Pay attention when you drive to work. How many people are driving with their phones plastered to their ears? Go to a mall or public place and notice how many people are on their phones.

Phones aren’t just phones anymore. Most of us have full access to the internet with us at all times. It has become such a problem that states are enacting more laws to prevent people from texting and talking on hand-held cell phones while driving.

Therefore, with all the distractions, we must be more conscious of how we use verbal (vocal) elements plus nonverbal (body language) to be an effective communicator.

 

Voice Elements

In a conversation, your voice is the channel through which your listener receives the message. People do not listen to only your words, but the way you say them – vocal elements. Vocal elements such as tone, pitch, rate of speech, volume, pauses, and words used are also part of the communication. How you use the vocal elements can make your words appealing, powerful, and create interest in what you are saying. Have you ever listened to someone who speaks in a monotone? Was it hard to focus?

 

Speed

Rate of Speech

    • Speaking at the same rate of speed is very similar to speaking in a monotone. Boring!
    • Varying the rate of your speech creates interest.
    • It also helps listeners interpret the meaning of your words.
    • Quick or jerky movement or voice show stress or fear inside.

Creating Excitement

    • If you want to excite your listeners, speak quickly with an enthusiastic tone.

Creating Anticipation

    • Slow the rate of your speak to allow your listeners to think about your words.
    • This also creates anticipation for your next idea – cliff hanger.

Pitch or Tone

Raising the Pitch or Tone          

    • Raising the pitch in your voice signals uncertainty or suggest a question.
    • The tone of voice reflects psychological arousal, emotion, and mood. It may also carry social information, as in a sarcastic, superior, or submissive manner of speaking.
    • Universally, adults use higher pitched voices to speak to infants and young children.
    • Men and women both use higher pitched voices in greetings and in courtship, to show harmlessness and to invite physical closeness.
    • “‘It [e.g., stumbling over words, higher vocal pitch, repeated swallowing] is no guarantee that a lie is being told, but it signifies a hot moment, when something is going on you should follow up with interrogation,’ Dr. [Paul] Ekman said” (Goleman, New York Times, C9, Sept. 17, 1991). A higher pitch can also indicate defensiveness.

Lowering the Pitch or Tone

    • Lowering the voice pitch projects a more authoritative and influential character.
    • A lower pitch can indicate shame, especially if the person is caught in a lie.    
    • The softer pitch is innately “friendly,” and suggests a nonaggressive, nonhostile pose.
    • According to (Washington Post [Schwartz 1996:A4]) “There’s a hidden battle for dominance waged in almost every conversation–and the way we modulate the lower frequencies of our voices shows who’s on top”
    • Submission: the act of acknowledging, complying with, or surrendering to the power or will of another.

Volume

Low Volume

    • If your voice is too low, your listener may not be able to hear and understand you.
    • A low volume communicates timidity and submissiveness.

Raising Volume

    • If your voice is too loud, it may be annoying to some listeners and disturb others.

Vary Voice Volume

    • Vary your voice volume to dramatize an idea or thought.
    • Lowering your volume can draw your listener to concentrate more closely on what you are saying.
    • Raise the volume when you want to emphasize a particular word or idea.

Pauses

  • Punctuate with pauses.
  • Occasionally pause to break up the flow of information and words especially after an important point or concluding an idea.
  • This allows listeners to process and understand what was said.
  • Use pauses to create anticipation.
  • People who are lying often pause to give themselves time to think.

Be Clear

  • Improve your listeners’ understanding.
  • Clearly enunciate each sentence, phrase, and word.
  • Practice to improve pronunciation.
  • Speaking clearly conveys competence, confidence, and intelligence.

Vocal Element Combination

Lowering your pitch while varying the rate of speech with occasional pauses has proven to be the most effective.

 

Robin Gets Her Assignment

Robin’s assignment was to observe people in communication to identify the different vocal elements and different conversations in their natural settings. She listened as her professor finished giving the assignment.

He began talking about a similar assignment he had been given in college. The more he talked the faster he talked and the pitch in his voice raised.

The excitement began to build in Robin. She couldn’t wait to get started. Her mind began to race through different possibilities of how to make this happen. She could feel the adrenaline beginning to course through her body.

She looked at her watch, “Fifteen minutes left. I wish he’d end the class I want to get started.”

He caught her attention when the volume in his voice dropped. The pitch in his voice lowered and his speech slowed to almost a crawl. He had her attention. What changed? What was he going to say next?

He paused. All the heads in the classroom raised to see why.

“I know this is short notice, but I need your project proposals by Monday morning. That gives you three days to work on it. If I don’t have it by Monday you will be docked one grade point,” he said just a little above a whisper, but loud enough for everybody to hear.

 

Conversational Tips

Starting A Conversation

When you start a conversation with someone you haven’t seen for a while, reference the context of your last meeting.

Don’t Interrupt

Never interrupt someone while they are talking. Not only is this rude, but it can be annoying too. Unless you are interrupting someone to clarify something, please refrain from doing so while they are talking. Make it a point to ask a couple of follow-up questions. Doing this shows that you were attentively listening to what they were talking about. If you are interrupted, you have a couple of good options. Politely take the conversation back, ignore the interruption and keep talking, or allow them to take over the full conversation. 

Listening

One of the most important parts of communication or having a conversation with someone is listening. Listening is not just waiting until you have a turn to speak or using the time to compose what you are going to say next. Listening is being respectful while giving the other person a chance to share their thoughts and idea. It builds emotional intimacy and shows empathy. Give them non-intrusive verbal and nonverbal signals to continue talking. Give yourself time to receive and digest what the other person is saying so you will be able to respond more appropriately when it is your turn to speak.  

Ask Questions

Get the other person to share stories. In a personal conversation stay away from facts. If you ask where they work then immediately follow with “How do you like working there?” Encourage them to tell their story. If you get short answers to your “open-ended” questions find a different topic.

Pause Occasionally

Give the other person time to process the information. If this is a one-on-one casual conversation, pause, ask questions, give your listener ample time to speak. Make it a true give and take exchange. If you aren’t sure what to say, pause. Give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts.

ABC Coffee Shop

Photo-by-Quang-Nguyen-Vinh-from-Pexels

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

At the ABC Coffee Shop Robin observed two women.

Robin chose a table in the corner so she could see every table. With laptop open and recorder on, she began to take notes. If she listened closely she could hear just about every word said at the tables closest to her. She was hoping to be able to record some of the conversations. The tables further away gave her an ideal view for watching their body language.

She sat for a moment observing the coffee shop. All of the tables were full. Music was playing over the loudspeaker. Phones rang. People were talking and laughing. Three were talking on their phones. A couple of people were even talking on their phones and to the other person at their table. Someone in the back dropped some dishes. A person entered the front door causing the bell hanging on the door to ring. A coffee bean grinders whirled. The expresso machine screamed as it was frothing the milk for a Latte’.

She tuned in on two women talking at an adjacent table. They may have been professors, administration or just a couple of women getting together for morning coffee. Robin didn’t know. One of the women, we’ll call Connie, seemed to be more talkative than the other one who we’ll call Debbie.

Connie spoke first as the women were seated with their coffee in hand, “I remember the last time we were together. Do you remember the Christmas Party?” Connie asked.

“Absolutely,” Debbie replied. “That was a lot of fun. It was great seeing everybody’s families, especially the kids.”

“Are your grandkids close?” Connie asked.

“My daughter lives down close to Atlanta. She has two grandkids. I don’t get to see them very often, I wish…” Debbie was saying when she was interrupted by Connie.

“I know exactly what you mean…” Connie started to say when Debbie took the conversation back.

“I’m really sorry, but we don’t have a lot of time, I have to prepare for my next class, but I did ask you to coffee to discuss our next get-together. We had so much fun last time.”

Nice take-back, Robin observed. She observed two guys at another table. They looked college age.  She called the one with dark hair Fred and the redhead, Willie.

She observed that Willie was talking almost non-stop. Fred was engaged in attentive listening, using verbal signals, like, “yeah”, “aha”, “really” with a few nods and smiles thrown in also. Then his phone rang. He said, “Excuse me,” as he looked down at his phone and pushed a button for it to go to voice mail.

“Sorry about that. Please continue,” Fred said with a hand gesture for Willie to continue.

After a couple of minutes, Fred held up his hand with his index finger extended. Willie stopped talking.

“Can you repeat what you just said? I’m not sure I understand correctly,” Fred said.

Willie smiled and went back over what he had just said in a little different way.”

“That was a really polite conversation for a couple of college guys,” Robin snickered to herself as she looked around the room.

Robin recorded all the noise in the coffee shop wondering how anyone could carry on a meaningful conversation with the noise and distractions.

 

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How To Achieve And What Is A Win-Win Conversation

“It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” – Stephen Covey

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image-by-Gerd-Altmann-from-Pixabay

Jerry discovered that Debbie, the step-mother of his girlfriend Connie, was a Life Coach. He and Connie had been having problems lately. He wanted to take their relationship to the next level – move in together. Connie wasn’t so sure. They had been seeing each other for about six months and Connie was noticing some things that sent up some red flags.

Jerry was determined to move in, but he knew he needed some extra support with Connie. He got Debbie’s phone number out of Connie’s phone when she stepped out of the room. The next day when Connie was at work he called Debbie and started talking like they were old friends or like he was her client.

Debbie knew about Connie’s misgivings about the relationship so she played along allowing him to continue talking hoping to find out more information about Jerry. He talked and talked and talked. Debbie was surprised. She really couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“I’m so glad you took my call. I really want to get to know you. Connie and I will be moving in together in just a couple of weeks. I’m so excited. I go over now and clean up her apartment and have dinner ready for her when she gets home. As soon as I move in I’ll be able to really take care of her.”

“Jerry,” he finally stopped talking. “How are you going to do all of that and work?”

“Oh. I’m waiting for my disability check to kick in.”

“You’re not working?” Debbie asked.

“Well, I am. You might say. I need your help. I really love Connie and she’s been talking about us moving in together, but lately, she seems to be getting cold feet. I know why and I need your help to talk to her.”

“What do you need my help with? I don’t know you. Why would I help you?” Debbie asked.

“I know she thinks I’m acting strange. I’ve tried to talk to her, but I don’t seem to be able to get it across to her. I need your help,” Jerry said.

“What is it you want to get across to her?”

“I’m ADHD and some of the things I do are a little different. I need you to explain it to her so she understands,” Jerry said after a little pause.

 

Win-Win

The goal of communication with anyone is to create a Win-Win situation for all parties. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states that “Win-Win is not a technique to be learned, but a philosophy of human interaction. It is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win also means that all agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying.”

The Win-Win mindset takes all the competition out of the interaction. According to Covey, “most people think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win… or lose. Covey goes on to say that this type of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than on principle or paradigm that states that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.”

 

What others say

I asked several people what a Win-Win Conversation means to them:

Win-win is where both parties learn something useful.” – Liz

“All parties involved have been given the opportunity to explain their own views with clarity and understanding making sure all who are listening fully grasp what is being conveyed. Then, leading into a time of evaluating all views that have been contributed with a goal of incorporating the different thoughts into one agreeable outcome that is accepted by all involved.” – Don

“When you first asked me, I thought there’s no way a Win-Win happens because in a situation of finite resources someone loses what the other acquires. But in reality, mankind has survived by the process of bartering, exchanging value for value.” – Larry

Growing up as an only child, living in the basement of my parents business, a nursing home, there were very few real conversations, with me, at least. My parents were both too busy to interact with me unless I did something wrong. As I grew into my teenage years and older I was very quiet because I had not learned how to communicate, to have a meaningful conversation, let alone, have a Win-Win conversation. I began to think there was something wrong with me because when people would talk to me I couldn’t think of anything to say to contribute to the conversation.

As I began my journey into adulthood, I devoured the book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris MD. I learned from reading the conversations in the book how to respond to people, how to begin to communicate my thoughts and feelings.

In college, I learned more about the academic side of communication, which isn’t always appropriate either. The erudite communication style shows off the person’s knowledge but is usually very hard for the other person to connect with.

I have learned much over the years about communications and having conversations with another person. Still, I have much to learn about truly connecting with another person so both parties walk away from the interaction feeling blessed just for being a participant.

Decisions and solutions don’t have to be determined or developed for the conversation to be important and bless both parties. It can be just an exciting, exhilarating, meaningful conversation.

 

Conversations with someone with ADHD

Just when I thought I was getting closer to mastering the art of a meaningful conversation I was thrown into communication situations with individuals who have ADHD. People with ADHD often jump from subject to subject without any warning. As a general rule, they can be very argumentative and become easily offended and launch into a tirade of defensive verbiage, or begin the blame game. Because of their impulsivity, the conversation threads can be trashed in seconds. Very often listening with focused attention does not happen. It’s a very interesting experience.

It sent me back to the drawing board to really learn and perfect a Win-Win Conversation Style.

Communications Styles

Most of us are familiar with the basic four styles of communication: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, Assertive.

Passive: Passive Communicators are usually introverts, like I was, afraid, unwilling, or don’t know how to share their thoughts, feelings, desires, wants or wishes in a meaningful honest way. Many times the person has very low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like what they have to say is important. A passive communication style is also used if the speaker wants to avoid being critical or hurting the other person’s feelings. The passive communication style often leaves the listeners feeling angry, confused, and often suspicious.

Aggressive: The Aggressive Communicator, on the other hand, is similar to what I described above, very argumentative, easily offended, blames and makes accusations. The Aggressive Communicator often over-generalizes by using phrases such as, “You always put me down.” or “You never want to spend time with me.” This communication style often follows when a person is feeling threatened, criticized, or obsessing on negative thoughts and feelings. They usually focus on the other person instead of on the situation. Many people with ADHD are Aggressive Communicators, but they are not the only ones.

Passive-Aggressive: The Passive-Aggressive Communicator is usually passive to the other person’s face, but displays aggression behind the person’s back. The primary goal of the Passive-Aggressive Communicator is to avoid face-to-face conflict. Later, they often become angry or seek revenge in some way. They often voice their real opinion behind the person’s back or to the person after the decision has been made and executed.

Assertive: The Assertive Communicator conducts their conversations in a healthy, non-defensive, non-aggressive, non-passive manner. They ask for what they want and need, voices their opinion in a respectful manner while remaining positive during the communication process. They seek a good mutually-satisfying conversation whether it’s just a conversation or they need to come to a decision or solution. The Assertive Communicator uses “I” statements instead of “You” statement which can be misconstrued as an accusation or blame. He or she also maintains good eye contact with the other person.

One thing to remember in any conversation is that opinions and goals are rarely as different as we might imagine. As we begin the communication process remind yourself to keep an open mind and be flexible in your thinking. Maintaining an amicable mindset which will promote peace and goodwill.

 

Achieving Win-Win Communications

Get the information needed out in the open

Lay all the concerns, facts, wants, or needs about the problem openly and honestly on the table. When a person is not open it inhibits effective communication.

Focus on the Problem Not The Person

Avoid identifying the other person as an “opponent.” Keep the problem or issue at the forefront of your mind. Try to ignore the personality and personal opinion differences. To do this try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Apply a generous helping of Empathy! In determining a Win-Win solution, focus on the common ground instead of the differences.

Be Aware of Any Emotions or Voice Tones

If you notice negative emotions coming to the surface, evaluate your emotions. Determine where they came from and how you can alleviate them so they do not cause a problem. Remain calm! If you observe an emotion in the other person, do not reflect it or respond in the same manner. If you respond with the same emotions there is a high likelihood of a heated argument. If you do detect an emotion make an effort to understand the other person interest, needs, and concerns.

Be Clear and Use Active Listening

Make sure your communication is clear with as few words as possible to get your meaning across. Use active, attentive listening, paraphrasing what the other person has said for clear understanding.

Use “I” Statements

“I” statements keep the communication from becoming argumentative, accusatory, or blaming.

Focus on Interest, Not Positions

Remember we all see things differently because of where we’ve been, our culture, values, beliefs, status, and responsibility. Our differences make for an interesting world. Seek understanding. You may be surprised.

Brainstorm Together

Be prepared with at least one possible solution to the situation. Make sure to ask the other person for ideas also. It’s possible that combining ideas could bring about a new solution that’s even better.

Mutually Beneficial, Mutually Satisfying

As Stephen Covey has stated, Seek a solution or decision that is mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying for both parties. If you don’t seem to be able to reach this point, together brainstorm for different solutions and be willing to negotiate.

Seeking The Win-Win

“Jerry, let me get this straight. You want me to convince Connie to let you move in with her? Is that right? And Why should I do that?” Debbie asked. Make the problem or situation clear.

Debbie could hear on the phone that Jerry was starting to get agitated. He was breathing harder than before. There was a sharp tone in his voice. Calm any emotions that arise.

“You know what ADHD is. You know how it affects people. If Connie just understood I know we’d be okay. I need you to explain it to her,” he continued talking in rapid fire without giving Debbie a chance to speak or even answering her questions. With ADHD or other disorders, you have to work at getting their attention.

Debbie waited for several minutes before trying to get Jerry’s attention hoping he’d run out of words.

“Jerry, Jerry you need to stop talking a minute.”

“You’ll talk to her for me?” Jerry asked.

“We’ll have a conversation about it and see if we can come up with an agreement,” Debbie said. “Why do you think she’s getting cold feet?” Focus on the problem.

“She doesn’t want me to go to her house and fix dinner for her anymore. She says she doesn’t want me there all the time. But, if I move in then I’ll be there all the time. I know she loves me. She’s said so. I just don’t understand.”

“Let’s back up a little. You said you weren’t working. Is that right?” she asked. “Then where are you living now?”

“I’m living with my sister, but she wants me out.”

“So are you wanting Connie to support you?” Debbie asked. Identifying the real issue.

“Well, it’d be just until I get my disability check. Isn’t that what couples who are in love do? They take care of each other,” he said.

“So you’re wanting Connie to take care of you even though you aren’t married? Do you suppose that could be Connie’s problem? Does she want to take care of you or do you just assume that?”

“I guess I was assuming that she’d want to take care of me, but we’ve never talked about it like that before,” he said.

“Maybe you need to ask her straight-out if she wants to take care of you.”

“Okay. Then can we talk more?” Jerry asked.

“Sure. Call me after you talk to her.”

 

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How To Communicate Effectively With People Who Think Differently

I can hear some of you who are reading this post ask, everybody thinks differently, so what exactly do you mean? Correct, people don’t think or do anything exactly the same, unless, perhaps, identical twins.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

People with personality disorders do think differently:

  • BiPolar: Obsessive Thoughts, think in the extremes – catastrophizing.
  • Paranoid Personality Disorders: Exhibit suspicious thinking.
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: Think they are completely flawed and inferior.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorders: Extremely superstitious with unusual beliefs in magic or the supernatural.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Vacillate between over-idealizing themselves, and completely devaluing themselves.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Black and white thinking.
  • ADHD: Think they are communicating when they’re just talking.

In this paper, I will focus on ADHA communication. I will explore communication with other personality disorders in subsequent posts.

 

Ted and ADHD

It was hard for Ted to start over trying to build a relationship with Tanya.

He thought back over his ten-year marriage to Amy. It seemed like she never understood him. That was part of the problem between them. He’d try and try to communicate with her, but she just didn’t understand. It seemed that the more he talked, the more distant she became.

Some times when he’d try to talk to her, she’d look at him like he was an alien from a different planet. She’d wrinkle-up her brow and say, “What the heck are you talking about?”

He’d try to explain it one more time and she’d throw up her hands and storm out. Occasionally, she’d say, “Can you talk in plain English so I can understand you?”

“The more I talked the worse it got. It got to the place I just couldn’t think anymore. It’s like my mind shut down. What’s wrong with me, anyway? I know I have ADHD, but what does that have to do with communicating? My mom took me to the doctor when I was about 12. He said it’s why I can’t sit still. I’m always moving and I get bored easily. But, what does that have to do with talking to my wife?”

 

Communicate, Don’t Just Talk and Talk

People with ADHD run into several different problems when trying to communicate. As you know from reading some of my posts on ADHD, people with the disorder are easily distracted. You can be talking to a person with ADHD and suddenly you notice they are gone. Their eyes take on a “vacant look” that tells you they have disappeared even though they are physically exactly where they were when the conversation started. Something that was said could trigger a thought that takes them on a “journey far far away”. If they have their phone close by and it beeps or makes some other sound they are gone, even if they don’t pick up the phone.

 

Communication Hot Spots for people with ADHD:

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Non-Stop Talking:

Impulsive Talking: Because of the impulsivity that most people with ADHD experience whenever a thought, feeling, or reaction pops into their mind they immediately have to say it. Most usually the person with ADHD does not take the time to evaluate whether this is the time or place for their thought to be said. They just blurt it out.

Solution: It’s very important to stop and think before speaking. Count to 10 to give yourself time before saying what pops into your mind. If necessary, ask someone else what they think about you saying it or how to say it.

Spilling Everything: Many with ADHD are compelled to say what’s on their mind before they forget it. This leaves the other person frustrated because of the flurry of words without exercising the standard communication and listening techniques. They often say, “I need to say this before I forget it.”

Solution: If you are the speaker and the listener is not aware of your impulsivity, tell him about your compulsion to vent and ask him for patience. After spilling everything on your mind, stop. Ask your listener what he has heard. Enter into a give-and-take communication about the subject. Also, design a device that will help you remember what you want to say.  If a truly important subject occurs to you, do as my husband does, and put a “pin in it” to discuss it later. He physically goes through the motions of pinning a note to a bulletin board. With the deliberate action, he remembers the subject almost 100% of the time.

Easily Distracted:

Switching Subjects: Those of us who are non-ADHD often get frustrated and have trouble following when the subject is switched without a resolution. Some non-ADHD people will look at the ADHD person and say, “What did you say? It just doesn’t make any sense? Please slow down and explain what you are saying so I can understand.”

Solution: Be self-aware that you have a tendency to switch subjects. Catch yourself and enlist your partner’s help in staying on track. Put a “pin in it”, as described above. It also helps to take several deep breaths and make a conscious choice to slow down.

Tuning Out the Speakers Words: A term used to explain ADHD is “fast brain”. When the person with ADHD is under pressure or feeling anxiety their brain is abuzz. They don’t have time to listen to what others are saying. When this happens, forget about responding to him. He can’t hear. If you ask him what you said, he may be able to give you a word or two, but not the thought.

Solution: When you, the one with ADHD, catch yourself beginning to tune out, ask your self, “Am I listening?” Tell yourself that your partner’s thoughts and words are important. If you need to, ask the speaker to repeat what they just said.

 

Image by ashish choudhary from Pixabay

Image by Ashish Choudhary from Pixabay

Argumentative:

Playing The Blame Game: People with ADHD often defend themselves against real or imagined criticisms. In many instances, the person with ADHD hears maybe five words, jumps to a conclusion of what the speaker is going to say and launches into defensive behavior and/or communication. They are often too busy defending, explaining, blaming, or justifying themselves that they can’t hear the speaker’s point.

Solution: If you hear yourself say, “It wasn’t my fault” or “You do it, too” or “That’s not right” or something similar, more than once, take a break. Go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face, or take a walk, or go into another room to allow yourself to calm down, or take several deep breaths. Reset your attitude.

Make sure that when you leave the room, you don’t just walk away. Make an appointment to continue the conversation. Too often, when a break is taken, and a time is not set to resume the discussion, it results in important issues being dropped and the other person feeling like what they have to say or their feelings are not important.

Easily Bored: People with ADHD have a real problem with low stimulation and boredom. They do not handle boredom well. They need mental stimulation. It has been stated that they experience boredom when the activity in the front of their brains is too low. Women with ADHD who cannot handle boredom are often called “drama queens”.

Solution: Keep yourself busy. If it becomes a real problem talk to your doctor about a treatment plan.

Afraid To Speak Up or Caught Off Guard:

Some with ADHD have problems with their brain’s “locking up.” When a person with ADHD gets overly emotional, sometimes they just can’t think. This may happen in stressful situations or with intimidating or aggressive people.

Solution: If you are aware of an approaching situation, write down what you want to say beforehand then during the situation, if your brain locks up, you can read what you had written or use your notes to guide your part of the communication.

If you are caught off guard, take a time out or say, “I need to think about this.” Take several deep breaths to calm your emotions. At that point, if you need to, write down what you want to say and read it.

 

Trying To Build a New Relationship

Ted sat out on the back deck going over the argument he and Tanya had just had. She accused him of being mean and abusive.

“Am I starting this cycle over again, just with a different woman? Why? What do I need to do differently? She wrinkles-up her brow just like Amy did. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t they understand me?”

He sat and thought and prayed for a good while. Maybe God would help him. He really didn’t want a repeat of the last 10 years. A thought went through his mind, “Tell her about the ADHD.” He sat wondering why he had the thought. Was that God talking?

He went to the back door and asked Tanya to join him on the deck.

She walked out, taking a seat without looking at him.

“I want to apologize to you for my behavior lately. I’ve been angry with Amy and with God, but it’s not fair to take it out on you. Please forgive me.”

She turned and looked at him without saying a word. He could tell she was not happy. Her face had a reddish tint to it like she was very angry. He noticed that her brow started to relax just a little. But, she still didn’t say a word.

“There is something I need to tell you,” he said as she sat very still almost like a statue but gestured with her hand for him to continue.

He took a deep breath, “I’ve never told anyone this, but I have ADHD. I was diagnosed with it when I was 12.”

The angry appearance was instantly replaced by a puzzled look as she said, “Why haven’t you told anybody?”

“Good question,” he thought for a moment. “I guess I was ashamed and didn’t think it was a problem. I don’t notice anything.”

“Of course you don’t notice anything. You’ve always been this way and you’re inside the box. It looks like home,” she said.

“It looks like home,” he repeated then sat quietly thinking about what she had said. “You’re right. It is home. But why don’t you see it as home?”

“Because my home, my box looks like me, the way I do things, the way I think, the way I perceive things. What I can see of the inside of your box seems very strange to me? Sometimes it seems like another planet.”

“That’s what Amy used to say to me. Why are you no longer angry with me?”

Tanya’s face softened as he laughed slightly, “I studied ADHD in college. Now, it makes a lot more sense. You’re not just being a jerk.”

“I still don’t understand,” he said.

“Well, first of all, you’re very argumentative. No matter what I say you get defensive and start the blame game. I know you got a raw deal with Amy, but that can’t be all of it.”

“What do you mean? I’m not argumentative. I’m just explaining my point of view…” he said.

Tanya interrupted, “Many people with ADHD and other personality disorders, get defensive whenever they feel criticized whether it’s real or not. You launch a defense after just five words just in case it’s a criticism. You interrupt what I’m saying, maybe, so you don’t have to hear everything.”

Ted started to interrupt. Tanya held up her hand, “Don’t interrupt. You need to hear this.”

He settled back into his seat.

“And don’t shut me out. You need to listen.”

He nodded.

“Just like right now. You don’t necessarily like the way the conversation is going to you try to derail it, change the subject, or argue with me, right?”

Ted nodded.

“That is part of the ADHD. You’ve learned how to compensate for things that might be pointed at you. You deflect them to someone else or change the subject completely so you don’t have to hear it. Usually, this happens to avoid taking responsibility for the communication problem. Am I correct?”

This time he didn’t nod or say anything, but the fire danced in his eyes. At least he didn’t lock her out. She had his complete attention, which was rare. Usually, he’d get bored with the conversation or he’d switch the subject to something more comfortable for him.

“I am aware of most of the things you have to deal with. I’m willing to work with you to be able to make this relationship work. Yes, there are concessions we’ll both have to make. We can create workarounds so that we’re both comfortable. Deal?”

Ted stared at her for several minutes before answering. His face began to soften as the stress and tension began to leave his face. Finally, a hint of a smile appeared.

“Well,” he said. “That sounds like the best deal I’ve heard all day. I’ll take it.”

He pulled her into his arms, “Looks like we’re going to be doing some reconstruction on our houses.”

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How To Find The Cure For Defensive Communication

“One reduces the defensiveness of the listener when one communicates that one is willing to experiment with one’s own behavior, attitudes and ideas.”- Jack R. Gibb PhD – A pioneer in humanistic psychology

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Loved Me Anyway

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)

larrySWarfieldMusic.com

I was bent and broken. God had let me down. I was angry, I just didn’t care.

I was into taking all that I could get, giving just enough to get me there.

She knew just what that was like. She’d been there before.

With strength and faith, she knew what she could do.

God warned her – “Here he comes, my Dear…” He’s gonna need your love”

She said, “Just give me time to think it through.”

Then she loved me. She loved me anyway.

Ted Thought He Had It All

Ted thought he had it all together, a beautiful wife, an ideal job with an up and coming company.  But it all ended in a very nasty divorce. He was angry. He didn’t want to get close to anyone. He became a user of people, women in particular.

He was angry with God thinking God had let him down. He had done the religious, “churchy” things, so why did this happen? They went to church every Sunday. He sang on the praise team. They had their house with the white picket fence and their two kids. What more could a person want?

Then she asked to go back to work. She felt trapped and controlled. He called all the shots and she was to jump every time he said jump.

She had given up a career because he said – “No, my wife is going to be a ‘stay-at-home’ mom. The kids need you.” Her wants and wishes were not considered. Ted had it all figured out. He was right. This was how it was going to be.

He had the mindset of – “I win, we all win,” – as long as we do it my way. But, Amy didn’t buy it. She couldn’t get him to change his mind or even listen to what she had to say. Any time she got close to the subject of going to work, he stonewalled the conversation, stomping off to the other room and refusing to talk. Forget listening or paraphrasing what she had to say. He didn’t care how she felt. He was the boss of the family and that was that.

 

It Came Crashing Down

One day she got up earlier than usual, dressed in a business suit, had the kids dressed with lunches walking out the door when he staggered into the kitchen for his usual breakfast that she always sat before him with his coffee.

Not today. As he watched her march the kids out the door, he finally woke up enough to say, “What’s going on? Where are you going? Where’s my breakfast?”

“First day on the job. Kids are going to daycare. Breakfast is on you,” she said walking out the door.

He stood for what seemed like an eternity watching the car drive away. Then he plopped into a chair at the table, with his head propped up on his hands. He had no clue how long he sat feeling like his whole world had just crumbled. He couldn’t even wrap his mind around going to work or even calling in sick.

The family had settled into their new routine when Amy started getting calls from work. When Ted asked who called, she said, “It’s just a work problem.” But it wasn’t long until she presented him with divorce papers. The work problem ended up being a guy from work who was pushing her to get a divorce and start a new life with him.

His perfect life with the white picket fence, beautiful wife, and two kids soon found him in the house alone. Angry. God had let him down.

Then he met Tanya, nothing like his wife. She went to church on her own. She claimed to have a relationship with Jesus. He scoffed at her, but, yet, she was attractive to him, even with the God stuff.

He began to court her and develop a new relationship. She soon agreed to let him move in.

Sometimes he was mean and abusive. He’d get defensive. He’d attack. She’d take just so much and then she’d draw the line, “Stop it or there’s the door.” For some reason, he’d always stopped. He switched to loving.

Defensive Behavior

Defensive behavior occurs when a person perceives or anticipates a threat. When a person experiences defensiveness, he or she is not able to give their full attention to the task at hand because a large portion of their attention is devoted to defending him or herself. At that moment he is occupied with thoughts about how he appears to others, what he needs to do to appear more favorable, how he can win, dominate, impress or escape punishment, or how he can avoid a perceived attack.

The defensive listener may launch into explaining how you, the speaker, misunderstood. Or clarify their intentions. Or make excuses. Or explain the cause and effect. Or say you caused it. Or say you, the speaker, do it too. Or point out something else you do wrong.

Defensive behavior arouses defensive listening producing postural, facial, and verbal cues resulting in a raised defense level in the speaker. If this goes unchecked the circular response can become very destructive similar to the “Defcon” level of international military interaction.

As a person becomes more and more defensive, he becomes less able to perceive accurately the motives, the values and the emotions of the speaker. The defensive behavior actually prevents the listener from concentrating on the message. It also distorts what they receive.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Defensive Communication?

Defensive communication is a reaction that occurs when an individual reacts in a defensive manner to a perceived logic flaw, a threat or a perceived unjust accusation, resulting in aggressive retaliation. A defensive response can be triggered by feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and sensitivity when the listener feels negatively evaluated, controlled or persuaded by the speaker.

Defensiveness can be a very serious problem. It can become a very bad habit on the part of the speaker and the listener.

Defensiveness is very frustrating, especially when you, the speaker, are trying to make a point and it seems like the listener isn’t really listening or derail the conversation.

Likewise, you, as the listener, can become very defensive when it feels like you are being criticized or blamed for something you didn’t do. Within a matter of minutes, the criticism and blaming and defensiveness can escalate and turn into contempt or stonewalling, where the listener withdraws from the conversation, shuts down, closing himself off from the speaker. This type of cycle can go unending for days, weeks, months, and even years.

This pattern needs to be nipped in the bud and not allowed to continue. Make a decision to establish a more “supportive” environment which creates a defense-reduction climate. The less the listener interprets unfavorable motives, the less likely his or her anxieties and concerns will be triggered. As the listener’s defenses are reduced, he is better able to concentrate on the meaning of the message.

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Add A Softer Touch

If you don’t like your partner’s defensiveness make sure you are not causing it by being critical. When you need to talk about a problem or something that could bring out defensiveness in the listener, make a soft start.

Do not “blow them out of the water with both guns blazing” to get their attention. Begin with a soft tone.

If you start the conversation with an abrupt, loud, or angry or critical remark, it’s over. The listener is in defense-mode before you get a sentence out.

Decide if this is the time or place for the conversation that you are about to introduce. If not, in a soft tone, say that you need to talk to them and ask, “When would be a good time?” Make an appointment. Wait until then to begin talking.

At the appointed time, start by using a soft tone. Use the “polite” words, please and thank you.

Example:

Criticism: “You never lock the door!”

Request:  “For the next week, would you please be sure to lock the door every day?” Thank you.

 

Cure For Defensive Communications

Find some part of a request or criticism that you can honestly take some responsibility for. Talk about that first. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, find some part that you can acknowledge in good faith. Address that part first. Stay on the topic until the listener experiences some relief. Don’t shift to another part of the topic too soon.

Example:

Speaker #1 says, “You’re working too many hours like you always do.”

Listener’s Response #1, “That’s true. I have been working late.”                                                     

DO NOT SAY

Listener’s Response #2, “Well, I wouldn’t have to work so late, if you’d do more.”

If the listener responds with Response #2 it will lead to a fight. Response #1 acknowledges that he has been working a lot of hours.

 

To summarize:

  • If your partner is defensive, make sure you are not being critical.
  • Acknowledging and taking responsibility for part of the criticism lets the steam off so it does not become a fight.
  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

 

One day Ted woke up to the fact that Tanya really did love him. When he realized he was loved, the meanness, the abusiveness, the defensiveness, the attacks began to diminish. His responses became softer with move loving tenderness.

Loved Me Anyway

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)

larrySWarfieldMusic.com

Then one day it dawned on me “She’s lovin’ you, you fool.”

I opened up my heart and I could see.

I’d thought I was in control. I’d thought I was so cool.

But there she was beside me. Tho’ she didn’t have to be.

Cause she knew just what I was like, making’ all that noise…

She’d take just so much and then she’d draw the line

And I learned I could trust that girl like no one else before

Now I’m so proud to tell the world she’s mine.

“It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way,” – Stephen Covey.

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How To Find the Rhythm in the Communication Dance

Find The Rhythm

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)
LarrySWarfieldMusic.com

When a man loves the work he does, it’s a wonderful joy it brings.
Not just mastering tools, or remembering rules, or just doing the same old thing
It goes much deeper within him. It’s so very much like romance.
He finds the rhythm in it and learns to dance.
Let me find the rhythm every step that I take in life.
As a general rule, I’m a stumbling fool, with my children, my home, and my wife.
Let me feel the rhythm. Give me one more chance.
Help me find the rhythm and learn to dance.

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

“When the two sexes communicate, women often communicate for the sake of communication and for the sake of talking. Men like to talk in a solution-oriented fashion instead. For a man, there must be a point and a conclusion in the conversation.”

 

An Average American Couple

Jack and Millie, a normal Southern California couple, married for ten years with two kids, a boy eight and a girl five. They both work full-time jobs as programmer-analysts. Millie’s mother takes care of the kids after school before they get home from work.

Jack works as an engineering programmer for a large oil company whose main office is in La Palma, CA, with offices and oil derricks all over the world. He often works overtime with frequent trips to different offices. His current assignment entails designing graphics that illustrate the different strata around an oil derrick.

Millie, also a programmer analyst, works for LA County Probation Office located in Whittier, CA. She has a 35-minute commute each way, which often turns into an hour each way because of traffic.

Their home is within five miles of Jack’s office, around the corner from the kid’s school, and grandma’s house across the street from the school. The arrangement works well for everyone in the family, except Millie, when she gets caught in traffic.

 

The Commute Home

This was one of those nights when two cars tried to occupy the same space on Carmenita Rd. Traffic was backed up for about two miles. Millie tried taking side streets, but everybody else had the same idea. It took her almost two hours to get home.

She tried calling Jack, but, as normal, his phone went straight to voice mail. He was on the phone so much at work so when he got home he often left his phone in the bedroom so he didn’t have to answer it.

She called her mom to see if Jack had picked up the kids and he had. At these times she wished one of the kids had a phone, but they had agreed Jack Jr. was still a little young for a phone.

She had to decide to stop and get take-out or cook when she got home. It was rare that Jack ever started dinner or did anything when he got home other than watch the news. She opted for Chinese. Their favorite restaurant was on her way home.

She was hoping for a quiet evening, but lately that hadn’t been the case. The kids seemed to be extra noisy and Jack didn’t seem to be present.

“I really don’t understand how he can have such selective hearing that he doesn’t hear anything but the TV. It’s been a rough few days at work and I’m not up for taking care of everything by myself tonight,” she said out loud. “I honestly don’t know what’s up with Jack. He’s always someplace else even though he’s in his usual spot on the couch.”

She could tell this had the makings of an unpleasant evening.

 

A Women’s Needs

Women need closeness and intimacy.  Talking is the currency of relationship building. It brings about intimacy for women – best friends sit and talk. Talking about problems or concerns or situations is the way they connect. Women value feelings and the quality of relationships.

Women need to receive care, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. A woman can be unconsciously afraid of being unworthy of love. They feel empowered when they feel cherished and cared for. She is often afraid of getting too close. Afraid she won’t be supported, she unknowingly pushes away the support she needs. If she pushes he feels rejected and turns away.

Women need to be listened to without being offered a solution or “fix” in order for her to feel understood and cared for. She needs her thoughts and feelings acknowledged. Women are not looking for immediate solutions. They want to be heard and understood, not “fixed.”

 

A Men’s Needs

Men, on the other hand, communicate to negotiate their status. They talk to preserve their independence and avoid being pushed around by others. Men value power, competence, and achievement. They need to achieve results. Men are empowered when they feel needed and trusted. Men need to receive trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement.

A man’s deepest fear is of being incompetent and not good enough. He is often afraid of giving and risking failure. It’s important that women not offer unsolicited advice to men because it would be perceived as critical, demeaning, and unaccepting.

 

An Argument

When a man feels challenged, he defensively focuses on being right and forgets to be loving or to listen to understand. He then upsets her by invalidating her feelings by trying to “fix” or solve her problem. Unless something changes the exchange can go around and around without end with emotions getting hotter, deteriorating into a fight.

 

The Communication Dance

Communication between men and women can be like a dance – A Communication Dance. We are all familiar with social dancing as a significant means of communication, where one of the partners expresses themselves through meaningful gestures and the other partner responds with appropriate or complementary movements and gestures. It does not have to be connected to music.

The communication dance is not driven by the body, but by the soul. The soul is tied to the expression communicated through each partner’s movements, expressions, attitudes, voice tone, and words, hence The Dance.

Our family of origin set our communication style and expectations. Each family has its own set of communication rules. For example, in one family a discussion, debate, sharing a different perspective, generating new ideas may look totally different from the communication style in a different family.

Perhaps, your family discussions were filled with interpreting, interrupting, criticizing, name-calling, playing the Blame-Game. Other families had very little, if any, communication or group discussions.

Honoring others: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

The Dance Begins

Millie walked in the house. The kids were chasing each other down the hallway, yelling and screaming. She didn’t pay attention to who was chasing who or who had the upper hand. When they saw her they turned and ran straight to the kitchen.

“You brought Chinese, we’re so hungry. Why are you so late?” Jack Jr. said.

“I’m starved,” Little Beth said as she crawled up into a chair at the kitchen table.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Usual,” Jack Jr. answered. “Can we eat now? I’m so hungry.”

“Didn’t you get a snack?”

“Dad said no,” he answered as Millie dished up their plates.

1st Move – Interpretation

She dished up her plate and sat at the table. She paused, thinking. “Does he think that feeding the kids and taking care of the home is woman’s work? Does he think he has no responsibilities in this house or to our family? Maybe I won’t even tell him dinner is served.” She sat for some time pondering her interpretation of the situation.

Jack walked into the kitchen, dished up his plate and began eating without saying a word or making eye contact.

Millie’s interpretation kept her from saying anything to Jack. She just knew her interpretation was right and she wouldn’t be nice and didn’t want to fight in front of the kids.

After dinner, she put the kids to bed then went back to the kitchen to clean up. She stood in front of the sink for a long time trying to decide what to do next.

2nd Move – Question or Accusations

Millie has a choice to make that will dictate the course and movements of this dance. She could go with her initial interpretation, “Jack just doesn’t care,” and go charging in with accusations, criticizing, name-calling and interrupting anything he would have to say – the blame game.

Millie’s second choice would be to calmly ask a question to understand.

Because of recent confrontations, Millie had begun studying listening and communications. She knew that if she criticized him it could easily lead to name-calling which would escalate to a blowup.

Millie decided to ask a question instead of assuming her interpretation was correct. She, again, had two options. She could ask, “How come you’re watching TV while I’m doing dishes and cleaning up the house?” or “Could I get some help with the dishes and housework?”

She walked into the living room and found him staring off into space, not even watching the TV. “Could I get some help with the dishes?” she asked.

She consciously tried to have a more neutral or pleasant expression on her face – she had been doing her homework. His body tensed when she walked into the room and stood by the couch. As he turned and looked at her face his body relaxed.

“Sure. No problem.”

He got up and turned toward the kitchen door then pulled her into a gentle embrace and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“What’s that for?” she asked with a sheepish grin on her face.

“For not being mad? I was sure you were mad that’s why I didn’t say anything at the table.”

“You’ve been acting very strange lately. Could you please tell me what’s going on?” she asked.

3rd Move – Sharing or Silence

He motioned for her to sit at the table. “I guess it’s time,” he said.

Now, she tensed. “Oh no, what’s up? Is he going to ask for a divorce, tell me about a mistress or that he lost his job?” she again interpreted the pending situation as she sat perfectly still trying not to cry.

“I have been very quiet lately. I know you’ve been carrying a heavy load with the kids, the house, and your job. That commute can sometimes be a bear, like tonight. I saw the accident on Carmenita Rd. It was terrible. Both drivers were killed,” he paused. “I haven’t said anything to you because I know what you’d say and I didn’t want your opinion to sway my decision.”

He saw her tense up again. He reached out and took her hand, “It’s not bad. Trust me.”

“Please just tell me. The stress is killing me,” she said as a tear ran down her cheek.

He wiped off the tear, “I have been offered a promotion at work.”

“That’s it. Well, of course, take it,” she said.

“That’s what I figured you’d say, but it’s not that simple. I would be traveling a lot, approximately six months out of the year.  Yes, the money is fantastic, but the kids, the house everything would fall on your shoulders. I’m not good with that. I haven’t said anything because I have another possibility that I am really considering. I’ve been asked to work for another company doing basically the same thing, but I’d be working from home. The pay wouldn’t be as much, but we could make it. I could get the kids and have dinner ready when you got home. I could shoulder more of the responsibility, but less money.”

4th Move – Find The Rhythm

Millie looked up with eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouth dropped wide open and her head tilted slightly to the side, “You said what? You want to work from home so you can help with the kids and housework? Is that what you said?”

Jack laughed, “That’s right.”

“Why the change?”

“With our recent arguments, I went to the company counselor and talked things over. He helped me see things from a different perspective. I don’t like the way things are going so I want to make some changes.”

He pulled her into his arms, holding her tight.

“Thank you,” she said in almost a whisper.

Listening attentively: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). “Those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Prov. 13:3).

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How Too Understand Why ‘HE’ Just Does Not Get It

Men engage the world in a hierarchical social order, “one-upmanship”,
whereas, women approach the world as one in a network of connections for intimacy.

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

Mark stood at the kitchen counter making his lunch before leaving for work when Diane started talking about her job, again (How Empathy Comes To The Rescue).

“I’ve told her what she could do, but she just talks and talks and talks about the same ‘ol thing. I think she just wants to complain about something, anything. I don’t think she really wants to solve the problem if there really is a problem. I’m so tired of hearing about this. I feel like banging my head against a block wall. I’m getting such a headache. I’m glad I have to leave for work. I just can’t take anymore,” Mark says to himself.

Diane shook her head in disbelief. After trying multiple times to get Mark’s attention to talk to him about a problem she was having at work, she turned and walked away.

“Sometimes talking to him feels like talking to a brick wall,” she said to herself as she threw up her hands and walked out of the room. “Why is it so hard to talk to him when it’s so easy to talk to Jenny about the same subject? I just don’t get it. I’d think he’d be interested after all it does deal with my job and our income. If I lose my job he can’t go back to school, like he wants to do.”

 

Sound Familiar?

Women, have you ever wondered why when you talk to your husband, significant other, or a man at work, it seems like they aren’t even on the same planet?

I’ve talked to my husband and he gives me a short comment that makes me wonder where he is or how his comment even applies to what I said. It’s amazing!!

Yes, he appears to be listening, giving me the nods, the listening comments, “yeah”, “hum”, but when he paraphrases what I said he gives me a couple of words that maybe are “somewhat” related.

Other times I get the first sentence out and I instantly get a solution, a fix, for my situation when I didn’t want him to fix anything. I really needed him to listen. I needed to be heard and understood. How could he possibly understand when he didn’t wait long enough or listen to what I had to say.

The experts say this is a common problem with communication between men and women.

 

Communication Differences

Remember the book that came out years ago, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” maybe John Gray had it right. Men and women do come at communication and situations very differently.

Deborah Tannen, author of “You Just Don’t Understand”, state that men and women are on different wavelengths and communications is a “dance.”

Some have stated the difference comes from different socialization. Tannen states that the differences in communication styles goes beyond socialization and appears to be an inherent difference in basic makeup of each sex. Studies have shown that at an early age, boys and girls communicate differently.

A video study was made of boys and girls in communication settings – boys with boys and girls with girls. They were put in a room where they could arrange the room and initiate the topics. The boys appeared to be extremely uncomfortable, whereas the girls immediately began talking.

The boys arrange the chairs so they sat parallel to each other and jumped from topic to topic centered around a time when they could all get together and do something. For boys, doing things together is important. Boys do not sit and talk.

Male communication is a way to negotiate their status in the group. They talk to preserve their independence and avoid being pushed around by others in the group.

The girls arranged their chairs in a circle so everyone could be seen. They eventually ended up discussing the problem of one of the girls arriving at a solution.

Female communication, on the other hand, is a way to negotiate closeness and intimacy. To women, talking is the currency of intimacy – best friends sit and talk. Talking about problems is the way to connect.

When men hear “troubles” or “problems” they shift into “fix-it mode”. They respond with a solution. On the other hand, women create feelings of closeness by conversing with friends and lovers about problems. Men have problems figuring out why women have to talk all the time. Eventually, men just tune them out.

Tannen states that men are confused by the various ways women use conversation to create intimacy. Men state that women complain all the time about their problems and troubles, but don’t actually want to solve the problem. Men just don’t understand the ritual nature of women’s “complaining.”

Yet, statists show that men actually talk more than women. It’s just a different type of communication style.

Image by Geralt from Pixabay

Image by Geralt from Pixabay

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive
the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

– Tony Robbins   

Diane, worried about her job because she missed the initial presentation due to her car accident and wanted to talk to Mark about her concerns.

Mark, on the other hand, wanted to help her solved the problem by giving her some tools that would help her get “a leg-up” on the other developers. Since he was also a developer, only in a different field, he gave her some websites she could check out for more information that wasn’t given to them by her boss.

Mark pulled himself together before he had to walk out the door. “Diane, here’s a list of websites that I put together that might give you some extra information about how to create the app you’re working on,” he said handing her a list of sites.

She took the list, briefly looking at it, and laid it on the table, “I’ve been through most of those sites. There’s some good information on them, but that’s not my problem,” she answered.

“Then what is your problem,” Mark said with voice elevated a notch. “I just don’t get it. You’ve talked about this project for days like you can’t figure it out. I am so lost. I really don’t know what you want from me.”

“You don’t know what I want,” Diane said just short of yelling. “You don’t know what I want. How could you not know what I want?”

“Tell me again,” he said looking at his watch. “I have to go in just a few minutes.”

“I need you to listen to me and understand what I am saying. I don’t need you to fix it for me,” she said in total desperation.

“I’ve listened. I went through all of our documentation at work to give you extra information. I’ve heard you say, you don’t want to get fired because of this project. What don’t I understand?” Mark said in a raised voice. “I just don’t get it. What is it you need that I haven’t given you?”

Diane took a deep breath and dropped her head to look at the floor. “I need you to put your arms around me and tell me it’ll be alright. I need you to hold me for a minute. I need to feel you understand.”

Mark paused for a few seconds, putting his lunch on the counter. He looked at her as though he were really seeing her for the first time. His face softened as he reached out and drew her into a hug, holding her tight. “It’s going to be okay. You’re very smart. You’ve got this,” he said while planting kisses on her face and neck.

After a little while, she pulled away taking a deep breath. A soft smile replaced the furrowed brow and downturned mouth that had been on her face, only moments before.

“That’s it? That’s all you need?” he questioned as he picked up his lunch.

Slowly nodding her head, she quietly said, “Thank you.”

“Baby, you are so welcome,” he said.

“Wow, that’s really good to know,” he said to himself as he headed for the door.

Tagged with: , , ,

How Empathy Comes To the Rescue

Developing empathy and becoming an Empathic Listener is learning to act, be, and care about others, as well as, learning to control and understand our own emotions.

accusation-anger-angry

“Mark, would you please take me to the office to get my car?” Diane asked a second time.

Mark grabbed his jacket and stormed out, slamming the front door.

“What’s wrong with you?” Diane yelled, rushing out the front door to catch up. “I don’t get it. The car is fixed and it didn’t cost a penny. Nobody was hurt. I didn’t even get docked pay for the day off. I have plenty of sick time. I just don’t get it (How To Hear What People Are Really Saying).

Mark stopped and turned toward her. His eyes wide with eyebrows pulled down in the middle. With clenched teeth he yelled, “Get in the car.”

Diane jumped in the car just as Mark jammed the car into gear, “Would you please wait? I need to fasten my belt.”

He didn’t seem to hear her as the car jumped out of the driveway onto the street in front of another car that had to slam on his breaks to avoid hitting them.  Diane could still hear the other guy’s horn as Mark “fishtailed” down the street.

“What is your problem?” she yelled as she hung on for dear life.

“Nothing,” he yelled back.

“Here we go one more time,” Diane said just barely audible lips pursed into a pout with chin jutting out. “I wish you’d just talk to me and tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing,” he yelled back again.

Diane sat perfectly still with fists clenched in her lap, not moving a muscle.

They pulled into the parking lot of Diane’s office. The car was sitting in her parking space. To Diane, it looked as if nothing had happened.

Mark pulled into the parking space next to Diane’s car.

“I’m driving it,” Mark growled.

“It’s my car,” Diane growled back, but it was too late. Mark was already behind the wheel of her car. She threw-up her hands as she walked around to the driver’s side.

“What is his problem? I wish he’d just talk to me, let me into his thoughts. I can’t begin to understand if he won’t talk at all.

“Research shows that the better someone listens, the more connected that person feels with the person who is talking. This produces a feeling of bonding and closeness.” – Gavin

 

Image by Geralt from Pixabay

Image by Geralt from Pixabay

 

What is Empathy and Empathic Listening

Empathy is the ability to imagine what someone else is feeling. Empathic listening is about really understanding the person who’s talking to you. That means it goes beyond active listening, for which the listener uses nods, listening posture and listening sounds like ‘yeah, yeah’ and ‘hmm’ to encourage the person speaking to continue talking. Empathic listening goes a step further. It’s not just listening, but actually hearing what is being said and understanding what the other is trying to say.” – Toolshero

It’s like trying to see through the other person’s eyes, to see the world the way they see it, to truly understand their frame of reference. It involves listening with all of our physical faculties, plus our heart and mind.

Empathic Listening is very important in cultivating personal and professional relationships because it is a form of respect and understanding. It makes conversations more meaningful, inspirational and fulfilling. It also helps to build trust.

Questions Asked

I hear you saying, “That’s all well and good, but how do you actually listen empathically? How can you fully, deeply, understand another person? How do you get to the place where you can see the situation from their perspective, like walking in their shoes? How can you learn to be empathic?

We can’t see another person’s perspective and their feelings if we aren’t in tune with our own emotions.

The scientific community is discovering the importance of Empathy in a person’s day to day life. It’s not only important in listening and communicating with others, but it also helps us respond appropriately in challenging situations.

 

Benefits of Empathy

We aren’t born with empathy or with the ability to be empathic. It is a learned skill. Empathy is important because:

  • It helps us relate to and understand others.
  • Empathy helps you resolve conflicts and manage disagreements better.
  • It helps us accurately predict how others are going to react in different situations.
  • Empathy helps us be more tuned into our surroundings, which gives us more confidence in expressing our own point of view.
  • It gives others around us comfort because we can feel their emotional pain.
  • Empathy helps us build stronger personal and professional relationships.
  • It’s easier to forgive others because we can see things from their perspective, understand where they are coming from, and why they reacted the way they did.
  • We become more aware of our body language and how we come across to others.
  • Empathy helps to build trust and allows others to relate to us.
  • It helps avoid misunderstandings and strained relationships

 

How to Develop Empathy

  • Connect with Yourself – Before you can have empathy for, or understand, anyone else you must understand and be able to connect with yourself. Identify your emotions and become aware of your own body language.
  • Express Appreciation – Make a habit of expressing appreciation for others, especially those closest to you – say thank you for the little things. Ask questions like: What can I do for you? What do you need? Practice expressing empathy.
  • Become an Observer – Take time to observe how people express their feelings. Watch their body language and other non-verbal communication.
  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes – Ask yourself, “How would I feeling in this situation?”, “What is this person feeling?” Start by identifying your emotions and point of view. Next, imagine the other person’s point of view. How often do you attempt to feel what the other person feels?
  • Keep Your Promises to Others – This builds trust with the other person so they will feel comfortable being open and honest with you.
  • Examine Your Attitude – Keep a log of how you, your perspective, and your attitude impact others.
  • Give More Thought To Others – Do you spend time thinking about your co-worker or spouse, what they are going through, or how they must feel during different situations?
  • Validation – Practice validating the other person’s perspective and feelings, whether you agree or not. Validation does not mean agreement. It’s not about you.
  • Eliminate Prejudices – Many of us do not realize we are prejudiced. When a person of a different race, gender or religion approaches you, how do you react? What do you feel?
  • Become Curious – Become curious about other people. Look for reasons and opportunities to engage with people that you normally wouldn’t connect with. Read widely to include perspectives of others who live or have lived lives very different from yours. Develop a sincere interest in others. What can they teach you?
  • Focus on Active, Attentive Listening – Reflect, paraphrase thoughts and feelings back to the speaker to verify understanding.
  • Ask for feedback – About your behavior, decisions, and words.
  • Be Willing to Share –Your passions and interests with others.

Diane’s Thoughts

Diane thought about the last time she was in the counselor’s office discussing her communication problems with Mark. She reviewed the instructions the counselor had given her. She really did want to communicate with him. She did want to be an empathic listener. She knew they’d have a much closer relationship if they could communicate on a heart level. It was time to practice empathy.

“I get really frustrated and angry when he shuts down like this when he won’t just say what’s on his mind. I get so angry I end up screaming because he won’t just talk to me and tell me what’s going on in his head.”

She thought for a few minutes. “He’s obviously angry, but I don’t know why. That’s the place to start.”

Diane had been home for about an hour when Mark pulled into the driveway. He wasn’t driving so erratically, so perhaps he was calmer. He took his time coming into the house. It was understandable because they’d usually have a big fight after one of these events. But, this time Diane made a promise to herself to do things differently.

Doing Things Differently

Mark came into the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table like he expected the usual fight.

After a few minutes, “Okay, let me have it,” he said.

Diane sat at the table across from him. She took a few minutes before speaking, “I really appreciate you driving my car home so you could see if it was okay.”

Mark raised his head to look at her, “Thank you,” he said. “But, I thought you’d be angry that I drove it home.”

“Honestly, I was at first only because you wouldn’t talk to me and I didn’t know where you were in your head. But, after thinking about everything, perhaps you were angry because I didn’t call you when it happened. I’m really sorry I didn’t. I had hit my head and wasn’t thinking straight, but I should have called you first.”

Mark took a deep breath before speaking, “I was angry because I’ve heard stories about the work the motor pool has done on cars in similar situations.”

He paused and ran his hand through his hair, “To be honest, I hate it when you get angry with me. Lately, I’ve been getting angry just thinking about talking to you. When I’m angry, I can’t think of anything to say. I’m beginning to feel myself shut down again right now.”

Diane reached out and took his hand. “It’s okay. Take a few deep breathes,” she said with a lower, softer tone in her voice. She also took several deep breathes before continuing. “I really wish I had called you first. How is the car?”

“Actually, they did a good job. I’m surprised,” he paused. “I knew you were going to be angry so I planned everything I was going to say. But, you’re not angry so I have to be honest. I was angry because I really wanted to sue the university. I’ve been thinking about all the money we’d get then I could quit my stupid job.”

“Hmmm,” Diane paused for a moment. “What I really hear is that it has nothing to do with the car or the university. I hear you saying you’re really tired of your job and you want to quit. Am I correct?”

Mark nodded, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Thank you for putting up with that job while I was getting settled in my new job. In fact, I brought home some job notices for you the other day. If you got a job at the university you could finish your degree like I know you’ve wanted to. You’d have your job, and the education wouldn’t cost us anything.”

Diane pulled the notices out of her purse and handed them to Mark.

“I’m so sorry for letting my emotions overwhelm me to the place I can’t think,” Mark said. “I will work at telling you what’s on my mind instead of stewing on things and letting them make me angry and shut down. Thank you.”

Focusing on and affirming the positive and showing empathy makes a great difference.

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How Not To Be the Listener Who Fakes It

The manner in which you stand, listen, gaze and move, tells the person you are communicating with how attentive you are, if you are being honest, and if you care or not. –  Anthony Madani

 Image by MoteOo from Pixabay

Image by MoteOo from Pixabay

 

Talking Non-Stop

Amy and Diane, from the story in Most Of Us, Don’t Know How To Listen, went to lunch to discuss the new project they had been given. Diane had been absent from the meeting where all the instructions and specifications on the project were handed out. It was the day Diane’s car was sideswiped.

Amy was kind enough to give Diane the card that Mr. Schroeder, their boss, had given out with all the information. Each of the five people on the development team were to design an app with the information on the card. All the apps would be evaluated and the best one given a bonus.

Diane wanting to pay Amy back for her kindness, asked her to lunch. Amy, the quiet type, didn’t have a lot of friends at work. She had a melancholy personality, quiet, analytical and detail-oriented, more of a deep thinker and feeler. At lunch, Amy didn’t seem to know what to talk about. She’d answered questions that Diane asked, but didn’t give much more information.

Diane did discover that Amy was born and raised outside of the United States. She and her parents were among the Vietnamese boat people that left Viet Nam at the end of the war in 1975. She was three when they left, but still has some memories of being on the boat. They lived in refugee camps for several years before getting asylum in the United States.

Amy wasn’t forthcoming with information about her life or her career. She seemed very intimidated by Diane, which made Diane very nervous and talkative. She eventually became so nervous that she talked almost non-stop and didn’t even notice when Amy did try to say something.

Diane started talking about the project they were to be working on telling Amy how it should be designed. Amy tried to make a comment, but Diane cut her off and continued talking. She didn’t pay any attention to the fact that Amy was trying to say something.

Amy began looking at her phone like she wished it would ring or an alarm would go off signaling time to go back to work. The lunch was very uncomfortable for both women.

To Become “interesting” you must become “interested”. Talk less, listen more. Don’t “fake” interest, “take” interest. – Don Carmont

 

The Poser – Pretend Listener – Fake Listener – Not Listening

Pretend Listeningpretending to listen – giving the appearance of listening. Pretend Listening is very disrespectful. It’s very easy to pretend to be listening, to be a ‘poser’. You make good eye contact or nod occasionally. You may even throw in a few well-placed affirming words such as, “yeah”, “really” or “wow”. You may be able to pull this off – at least in public. You may even have yourself convinced that you’re listening.

If your mind starts to wander, rein it in. Actively listen! It’s a choice. If the roles were reversed you would want others to listen to you.

 

Not Listening At All – Have you ever been in a situation where you are talking to someone when you notice they are showing no signs of listening. There are no occasional affirmative words or nods. They are not looking at you. How does that make you feel? I have been in that situation. I stopped in mid-sentence, turned and walked away. I felt very disrespected like I wasn’t important to that person at all.

 

Talking too much – A person who is very talkative and doesn’t listen to others may cause the listener to shut down from boredom or from just trying to get a word in edgewise. Many people hesitate to get into a deep conversation with a talkative person. A talkative person often comes across as too aggressive and not interested in what someone else has to say. Too often they are a “know-it-all”, a fixer, or someone who is going to tell you exactly who to do when to do it, and how to do it.

 

If you are one that is prone to excessive talking, become self-aware and mix your talking with asking questions. Exercise active listening when the other person is speaking. Don’t try to fix or give advice. Use active listening protocols as discussed in “How To Hear What People Are Really Saying.”

 

Prejudice – Feelings of prejudice often causes animosity and hard feelings between people of different backgrounds, appearance, age, religion, race, etc. This can be the cause of a breakdown in group dynamics and prevent a person from hearing what is being said. It can be a big problem in a work environment where people of different cultures or races are required to work closely together.

 

Extend respect to the speaker, his background, age, religion, race, etc. Try not to elevate your thoughts and perspectives above that of the speaker. Look for the positives in the person and what he/she is saying. Think about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Luke 6:31 NASD “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”

 

Distractions – With today’s technology it is very easy to be distracted by your phone, Facebook, emails or whatever. It’s even easier to be distracted when you really don’t want to listen.

 

Distractions have an easy solution. Mute or turn off your device when you are in a conversation. Face the person who is speaking and give them good eye contact and body language. Make yourself and the speaker feel comfortable by showing them you are interested, by exercising attentive listening. You may not agree with what is being said or even the subject, but you can be respectful. It’s a choice.

 

Different Beliefs – Every person has their own beliefs, convictions, opinions, and perspectives. We are all different. Yet, we all would like to have our beliefs respected even though they may not line-up with others.

 

Find something you can appreciate about the other person’s unique belief. Can their perspective give you some new insight into the situation? Is there something that you are missing in your perspective? Look for something positive. Use empathic listening. Learn to empathize with others.

 

“When you are able to empathize with the other person; you will actually feel a deep sense of what they are saying. Feeling into their situation will really help you understand their point of view, and give you a different perspective.” Anthony Madani, Master Listening Skills

 

Misinterpretation – Without active, attentive listening it’s very easy to misunderstand what the other person is saying. When this happens, ask a question to clarify. Don’t assume you know. Be polite and respectful. Don’t interrupt. Very often the speaker will appreciate your attempt to clear up a point. If you aren’t sure about what has been said, there is a high likelihood that someone else in the group also needs the point clarified.

Clarification also shows that you are listening, that you are paying attention.

 

Emotions – Emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, personal dislike of something or someone, and self-pity are emotions that are focused inward. The more one feels these emotions the harder it is to focus on what is being said.

If you are the one who is upset take steps to calm your emotions with deep breathing, relaxation. Push the thoughts causing the emotions out of your mind while you are listening.

If the speaker is the one who is emotionally upset active, attentive listening will almost always help to calm them down.

If you want to defuse an argument, the best way is to stop speaking and start actively listening.

If you know your current emotional state is not conducive to active listening, take action. Be aware of any hurdles or difficulties that may keep you from staying focused and change them if possible. Reschedule the conversation for a different time. If that is not possible, take steps to be a more active, attentive listener.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to what another has to say,” –

Bryant H. McGill

 

Becoming Aware

Diane realized that she had been overly talkative. She didn’t like overly talkative people and here she was being one. She had read that before change could take place the person had to become aware.

She sat quietly, for a moment, reviewing her talkativeness. How and why did she become the one with an abundance of words? She was always the quiet one.

“Effective listening involves not only tuning in to others, but tuning in to ourselves. Listening carefully to what we say and how we say it can teach us an immense amount about ourselves.” – Madeline  Burley-Allen.

“Oh, my goodness,” Diane exclaimed. “I’m so sorry I’ve been talking nonstop. Please, is there anything you wanted to say that I didn’t hear?”

Amy’s face brightened and she made good eye contact with Diane. She leaned forward slightly as she blackened her phone, “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you Mr. Shroeder did say we could work together on the project. The others were so interested in the bonus that they have shut down communication. But, I have an idea that if we work together on it we will have the best apps in the group. This morning when I woke up, I had a design idea that might work really well, but I need some help working out an algorithm that is really your forte’.”

Diane smiled as she began to relax. She leaned forward slightly giving Amy her full, undivided attention.

The talkative listen to no one, for they are ever speaking. And the first evil that attends those who know not to be silent is that they hear nothing. – Plutarch

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