Monday, October 11, 2010

Mental Health Monday - Message Sent

The problem with our relationships, all of our relationships, is that we struggle with adequate communication. How many times have you said, "But that's not what I meant!" or how many times has someone said to you, "It was the way you said it, not what you said!" I was once told that two people can see the same situation and give a completely different account because of the "lens" they are viewing it through.

What in the world is a lens? What I'll refer to as your lens is your life experiences. Depending on your life, your experiences and your paths, the lens you view the world with is going to be different than the person sitting next to you with completely different experiences and life choices. This is even true for the people closest to you - you may think you know them very well and while that may be true, you really have no idea what their lens looks like. Your lens inevitably affects your perception and your perception greatly affects your relationships.

So, taking that into consideration let me share a few things with you that I have found to be helpful in my own relationships.

Let's consider not what you say or even how you say it but the message it sends. When your spouse asks you if they can help with something and you simply say, "No thanks" it can send the message that you don't need or want their help. Maybe this isn't true, but if that person is having a bad day or is particularly sensitive to what you are saying the message sent can be completely different from what you are meaning. This can be true for actions, expressions and attitude as well. Maye you're leaning in closer to hear a conversation but to the person behind or beside you, the message it sends is that you are trying to shut them out of the conversation.

I know what you're thinking - "Good grief, this could be taken in so many directions! How can I ever know?!" It's simple - communicate it. For some reason, as a society we love to talk but hate to communicate. Here are some great tips to get you started:

1) Open the lines of communication. Be expressive with each other in your relationships. Make the other person feel like you are listening so they will be more likely to listen to you and be open to what you have to say.

2) Tell them the message it sends. Your conversation should start, "When you say this, the message it sends me is this" After letting the person know, give them the opportunity to respond while respectively listening. If they did not mean anything by it, you need to trust that and move on. If the messages continue being sent, further discussion and honesty may need to take place.

3) Stay away from "you" and stick with "I" - instead of "You meant this", rephrase and say, "I feel like" or "To me it seems". Take ownership or your interpretation and allow the other person to explain without them feeling attacked.

4) Avoid words like "always" and "never" - "You always say things like this!" When we use such exclusive words it can make the other person defensive and if we're being honest no person always or never does anything.

5) Be receptive to the response. Maybe you are being too sensitive or maybe you did misunderstand. Be willing to admit that you may have some part in all of this.

6) Practice what you preach. Be mindful of what you do and say around others because you just might be sending a different message yourself.

As you can see here, the experiences we or others have gone through in life will shape the message that is being sent to us. A great way to find out what the other person is truly meaning is to simply ask.

1 comment:

Lauren McKnight said...

How did you know that I needed this? Oh yeah, you are a mind reader.