“Three-fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world will disappear if we step into the shoes of our adversaries and understand their standpoint.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Communication is relative. What you hear from me is a combination of your subjective perceptions of reality as well as mine. For our conversations to be productive and potent, we both need to be aware of and respect our perceptual differences. How often do we do this? How natural is it? In my experience, even as a student and a facilitator of difficult conversations, it is not a natural default mode and requires a committed conscious discipline.
We listen (and judge) so often “from” our programs, filters, and preferences – and also from our triggers and identity attachments. Be aware of the story that runs in your head as you a engage in difficult or frustrating conversations. In that story, there is an opportunity to responsibly question your assumptions, expectations, and projections that lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretations. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations that create high levels of inefficiency in communication = barriers, chasms, and limitations in outcomes and solutions.
Slow down the conversation. Especially the one in your head. And perception check. “This is what I am hearing. Is this what you intend to communicate to me? Do I have it right?” The discipline of perception checking keeps conversations on an accountable track and minimizes the unnecessary misunderstandings that lead to inefficient, avoidable conflict.