Figuring out the true meaning of what someone else says should not be that difficult of a task if you’re both speaking the same language. However, one of the reasons I think confusion has manifested in my own life is because what I say and what I mean aren’t always the same. But I bet it’s similar for you as well. Why is that? For most of us, we come up with several reasons as to why there is a difference between what we say and what we mean. I think the greatest differences revolve around how we each think, in a particular case how men and women think differently.
How a question is asked can change the outcome of an answer before the other person even has a chance to think about the question. If the questioner seems genuinely uninterested, the chance for a positive answer is doomed from the start. If the questioner seems enthusiastic and intensely interested, leaning on the edge of their seat waiting to listen to our answer, it will make a significant difference.
How a question is answered also sets the direction of the conversation, or whether it becomes one at all. Weak answers show a lack of interest and willingness to participate in dialogue. The tone in which the answer is stated is also important. Body language tells the real story behind the answer. All these things have fascinated researchers that study why we do the things we do.
Part of me wonders why we don’t freely speak, exactly what it is we are thinking. For some people, it seems to be wired into who they are, and they do this naturally. They are brutally honest and not ashamed of it. But others wrestle with trying not to offend the other person. In the process of trying to avoid conflict, they avoid it while it’s in the infancy stage. Meanwhile, a storm brews beneath the surface, growing in magnitude the longer it goes unchecked. If ignored long enough, that conflict will burst out into the open.
While searching for the root of why we don’t say what we mean, I’ve contemplated whether much of it revolves around a single concern. Does the other person care? I said was fine, but I am really not, do they care enough to find out why? I said nothing was wrong, but do they care enough to dig beneath my shallow answer. Understand that we genuinely want others to show concern for us and when they do not, communication goes out the window, along with everything they say.
All this makes perfect sense, to us, that is! Therein lies a problem, it may not make sense at all to the other person. They are clearly, might I emphatically say, unable to live inside our heads. They cannot see our thoughts. As such, they are on a completely different wavelength. They have already lived out a completely distinct set of circumstances that day, prior to their interaction with you. Add to this they have their own emotions, wrapped around thoughts that might have absolutely nothing to do with ours.
Think about it this way. Say that an actor has been rehearsing a script for an important scene. They have been at it for hours and now, know it inside and out. They are so full of the script that when they show up to the scene, they are ready to go! However, when they encounter the actress who is part of that same scene, they are infuriated to find out she has not read the script. Isn’t this scene important to you at all, they wonder. The whole thing would cause a fight, when in reality, the director never gave the actress the script to begin with. How was she to know her part?
The truth of the matter is this. If we would be less mysterious in our communication, we’d save ourselves a lot of frustration and unnecessary drama. This is certainly not a pass to say exactly what is on your mind because that could cause trouble also. A perfect line exists somewhere in between where you can correctly say what you are really thinking. It may take work, but the effort will pay off in the amount of fights avoided. Having good relationships doesn’t mean running away from trouble and pretending it doesn’t exist. It means effectively communicating when trouble comes, to gain an understanding in what the other person is truly trying to say.