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Tips for Great Communication Part 2

It’s the school holidays at the moment and I have been spending lots of wonderful time with my children aged 6 and 11 and it is fascinating to view their communication with each other when the going gets a bit rough.

When they have a conflict, it is almost always over miscommunication. When the younger talks to the older child she hears the words from the perspective of the way she interprets her world. That is, she hears what he says through the lens of what she believes, what is important to her, what is acceptable and not acceptable to her and even of what different words and phrases mean to her.  My son too has his own 6 year old perspective of the world that is different in many ways and it is sometimes difficult for them each to understand where the other one is coming from.

When it is clear they need some help to resolve their issue (directly related to the noise level) the most effective thing I can do is to help each of them understand that what they meant and what their sibling heard are often not at all the same thing. Often they are actually talking about the same thing and have the same view and had no idea! My job is to remind them of their different perspectives and interpret what they each mean to the other – to find a language they both understand.

The lesson to learn from this as adults I think, is that we do it too – although perhaps in a less dramatic way. The mismatch in interpretation of meaning can be less obvious than with young children but it is there underlying miscommunication, misunderstanding and conflict often in a subtle way. The good news is the remedy is the same and usually we don’t need an interpreter! We can do it ourselves with a bit of awareness.

All we need to do is to clarify that the meaning we have made from what someone has said is actually what they intended.

A few simple questions can be useful here:

What I heard is…. is that right?

Do you mean…?

Can you help me to understand that a bit better?

What does ……mean to you?

…… means …… to me. How does that match with what you intended to get across?

I would love to hear your thought on this and your communication tips.

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