Is your life a revolving door of miscommunication?
What is the one thing we do on a daily basis that often gets us in trouble? We communicate with each other. Ask yourself, are you communicating in a way that makes you feel disrespected, or are you communicating in a way that commands respect?
I remember a time years ago: I was riding horseback on a backcountry trail. It was gorgeous, a beautiful day. I don’t even remember what time of year it was, spring or fall, but riding the trails in the backcountry is something I absolutely love to do. There was a moment where I felt my horse hesitate and become unsettled, skittish, which had all my senses on alert. I looked around and spotted, straight ahead, a black bear sitting just off the path, maybe two hundred yards up.
I could feel my horse’s heartbeat kicking up as I held him still when all he wanted to do was take off and run out of control. Instead, I sat there on the horse and waited and watched as a cub came out of the bush and crossed the path. Mama bear was still sitting there, and a minute or two later, a second cub crossed into the bush on the other side. Yeah, you bet I got that communication loud and clear! No words needed to be spoken. Mama bear was sitting there, waiting for her cubs to cross the path into safety, and she was doing what mother bears do.
Of course, she knew we were there, but we had enough sense to stay back. She sat there for another thirty seconds or so before getting up and walking slowly, following her cubs into the bush. I can tell you there was no misinterpreting her communication. It was absolutely, one hundred percent, crystal clear: Stay the hell back and away from my babies or I will rip you apart. It took us another minute or two before we started moving along the path back home. I wanted to give her time to move on with her babies. My horse was still jittering, heart thumping, so I had to rein him in to keep him from taking off like the fires of hell were burning his ass. Even my horse could understand the clear, concise, wordless communication.
Have I been compared to a mother bear with my kids, especially with my special needs son? Absolutely. I’ve set very clear boundaries, and those around me have said on numerous occasions, “We’d never want to go up against you where your kids are concerned, because you would likely rip us apart.” Well, yeah, I would—to a certain extent! I am very clear with my expectations, because they have not been met too many times. With my special needs son, I had to learn to communicate in a way that commands respect. But it had to start with me first. I had to get clear on my expectations.
If you don’t feel respect, then you’re not communicating to yourself that you want to be respected. What if I were to say something to you in a way that made you feel disrespected? You would take what I said and interpret it in a certain way, telling yourself that my words and my tone mean I don’t respect you or like you, and you would become hurt and angry. But is that really what I said? No.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time, and it always comes down to the way we communicate with each other. I mean, some people feel loss for something they have never had, and if you think about it, most losses we feel are for expectations that were never met. How many of you have gone to someone you know and asked them to help you get a job, or get a foot in the door with a good friend of theirs, or get a contract with a company they do business with? When it doesn’t happen, no job, no contract, nothing, you’re hurt, and you talk or vent to someone else, who says that person didn’t really like you or they didn’t really try, because if they did like you or care, you would have that job or that contract or that piece of the pie you expected to have. If they really wanted to, they could have pulled the strings and gotten it for you.
Like I said, most upsets are about unmet expectations. You expected someone to do something, you expected that promotion, you expected the weather to change, you expected… I could go on. Then, when it didn’t happen, you had that feeling of losing something you never had.
If you want to feel bad, all you have to do is create the illusion of loss. Then that feeling of loss creates another emotion. You know the one—that feeling of hurt. This ziplines you right toward feeling outright anger at that person. You perceive them as having done or not done something, all because the communication went completely haywire in your head. Maybe you now think that person is a lying, cheating, dishonest scumbag, and you’re no longer friends, and you hate them, but the truth of the matter is that when you spoke to them about that job, they were clear with you and didn’t promise anything. It was all your expectation. Then what did you do but vent to another friend, and that friend added in their two cents about how if your friend really wanted to help you, she could have?
Keep in mind, you’re in a really stressful state to begin with. Maybe you’re struggling to pay your rent or mortgage or bills, so when your other friend says that of course your friend could have gotten you the job if she really wanted to, she could have pulled some strings, she could have made it happen for you, you believe she must not care about you. You see where I’m going?
Does the state of stress affect how we interpret things? Of course it does. I mean, how many of you do that thing where you let your head create all kinds of shit about another person? You tell yourself, OMG! She hates me and thinks I’m horrible and wants to hurt me. She lied. She’s not really my friend. How many of you are really good at interpreting something in a way that makes you think someone has done something to you? I can guarantee you there was a misunderstanding there. When you asked your friend to help with getting you a job or contract, she probably said to you, “Hey, no promises.” It was the illusion of loss, and that illusion is all you need to feel bad.
Maybe the anger is directed at you, and someone is misinterpreting what you said. In that case, look at the mama bear on the path. I guarantee you she wasn’t getting stuck in her head, creating all kinds of illusions and scenarios. Her communication was deadly clear. She wasn’t lying. She wasn’t dishonest. Stay back or else.
If you find that your communication is getting lost in translation, ask yourself a question about the person who’s angry with you. If you’re the one who’s upset, ask yourself these questions: What is going on with her? What could make her treat me this way or respond this way? What is she stressed about?
Then ask the person, because seriously, this will change how you communicate with others. You will often find that the response you get is either a loving response or a cry for help.
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