Often, mixing and combining what is said and heard without understanding the actual meaning can result in confusion.
I cannot count how many times I have experienced the loss of connection with another person simply because of confusion. It could be caused on my part and/or another person’s part. Confusion is when one thing could be said or done, and the meaning of what was said or expressed was interpreted by another person through a different lens or perception.
What ends up happening as a result is broken connection, and possible misdirection or misguidedness. It can be an honest and innocent mistake. As a result, frustration, anger, rage, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, worry, depression, despair, dread, shame, guilt and a host of other experiences can result from confusion. Not to mention the loss of relationships may occur.
An innocent, yet unknown, lapse in communication can run us down a road of turmoil and hurt. How long that road can be determined by the amount of life lived under an incorrect interpretation or broken communication. Broken does not mean it cannot be fixed or worked on.
It is not enough to say I need to work on my communication. Rather, communication is broken down into many areas, and the term communication is too wide to cover without breaking down communication. We have listening, body language, posture, emotions, questions, reflecting, feedback, clarification, interpreting, paraphrasing, summarizing.
Notice, I did not put in there talking. This is because communicating is not all talk, and not all about what I have to say. Many times, we listen to respond, rather than listen to understand. We tend to muddy the waters with what we are thinking to say, rather than speaking to what is being said for understanding. When this occurs, we are not in tune completely or at all with what the other is saying. We are focused on ourselves more, and care less about what they are saying, and more about what we want to say.
We then miss the whole, and meaning, of a conversation or content delivered. When this happens, we live outside of context of what was said, and behave in our own interpretation. How can we avoid such confusing peril? Well, the answer is that we cannot eliminate confusion, but minimize it.
Remember, as humans, we are limited in understanding as it is. But, with the heart of love, one can commit to growing towards greater communication skills, minimizing the occurrence of confusion. And when confusion occurs, having the patience and maturity to accept responsibility and go back to where the confusion took place for better clarity.
There is much wisdom about listening more than speaking and understanding over expressing opinion. This can apply in all areas of social life, including professional arenas. It is when we place connection, relationship, and working alongside for understanding we gain the greatest peace.
It is not wise when understanding is laid aside and we only want to share our personal opinions. This because it undermines relationship and connection while placing ourselves over another who holds equal value. This may reflect our own views of ourselves. So how can preventing confusion look like?
First, we must listen to what is being said, and authentically give the floor to the other person to speak until they are finished. This is a matter of respect for the person because what they say matters to them. When we give them time to listen to what they have to say, they feel valued. Listening is in body language and posture. More than half of communication is in what we do not verbalize.
It lets people know we are present and engaged. Emotional connection is important as we connect appropriately to what is being said. Being humorous during a grieving moment may not be quite appropriate or timely. However, silence or crying with them may fit more appropriately. Listening is about connecting with what the other person is trying to mean and speak. We should be entering their meaning rather than our own.
It is an empathetic approach to seeing the message through their eyes for our eyes to grasp true meaning. It is important to them, because it is part of them and their experience as a person. Asking open and closed ended questions for them to give us their meaning of what is said can help us have a clearer interpretation from their mind, and our own. Different perceptions of the same thing said can occur. We all have a background to interpret from including, culture, family, philosophies, values, faith, etc. Additionally, reflecting what content is said and ties into giving feedback for clarification.
Feeding back to them what was heard throughout the conversation and gives the speaker the opportunity to clarify meaning or add more to what is said. This helps clear out confusion, and even challenge thinking for a new or different perspective on things discussed. This helps provide alternatives to situations, creating a win-win!
Following having clarification given, we can form an interpretation and possibly even paraphrase things said along the way into our own words. This helps build the connection with what was said, truly meant, thus connecting with the speaker sharing the same interpretation. Then we can summarize what was discussed and have a path to follow — an informed path.
Like mentioned earlier, this is not a fail-proof way. We are human, and we will miss some things from time to time. However, this provides the skills to mature in effective communication to build stronger connections, better character, and less confusion which results in much less turmoil mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially. In the event confusion occurs, simply go back to the discussion, and discuss understandings and the confusion will be able to be narrowed down to where it occurred. This will provide the opportunity to clarify meaning and go with the actual interpretation.
Brian Shubert is actively involved in the behavioral health field as a Substance Abuse Counselor. He lives in Lemoore.
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