Communication is a tool.
Communication is easily one of the most underrated tools we use. We go about our days casually conversing with each other, and perhaps not realizing just how important our exchanges are. We’ve all been hurt by something someone has said; during our rumination of the conversation, we think
“If they only understood where I was coming from!”
Unfortunately, we don’t often take the time, or have the fortitude, to seek out understanding. We feel as though our version of events is THE version of events. Knowing there are two sides to every story and actually practicing it are two very different things!
Just like a hammer needs a nail, communication requires understanding of our stories.
One day a few years ago, my friend Matt and I were writing a song. With a notebook and our voices, we sat at the piano and teased out lyrics and a melody. Once finished, we decided to record a video of it to share online. I pressed record, and we were off!
When we were about mid-recording, I looked at the camera screen in front of us and noticed there was something going on in the background. I turned around to see my sister doing an interpretive dance to our composition…
“Daria!” I exclaimed in frustration, “We’re recording!!!” She, feeling sheepish, confessed she had no idea we were filming and left the room.
She disappeared for an hour and eventually returned with a bruised ego. Once Matt left, she told me I had made her feel terrible - that the tone of my voice was really harsh! She had put herself out there to act goofy and bring a little fun to the afternoon, but I simply shut her down. Not to mention, Matt was the guy she had a big crush on.
I explained that her goofy dance had ruined what was about to be a really good take. I didn’t think I was being that harsh.
That night, as I was sifting through takes to decide which one to post of our song, I stumbled upon the one that contained my sister’s theatrics. It was somewhat entertaining to observe her sneak onto the scene, but then, it happened. I saw the replay of my face and heard the tone of my voice when I scolded her, and she was right - I was harsh. Although in my heart of hearts I was sure I didn’t sound thaaaat bad, the proof was in the recording. Busted!
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Understanding our stories.
Most of the time in life, we don’t have the luxury of an instant replay to observe what really happens. We’re only left with our interpretation of what happens.
We call this our story. Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We add meaning to the action observed.
I added meaning to my sister’s interpretive dance (“Dance=Recording Wrecked”) and felt annoyance. My sister added meaning to how I said my words (“She thinks I’m vermin”) and felt the emotion of hurt.
When emotions are running high (hurt and annoyance), opinions vary (“You interrupted an important recording!”, “But you were mean!”) and the stakes are high (relationships), the conversation becomes tough. What comes next in dialogue can have a huge impact on our lives.
How we engage in tough conversations is a deal-maker or deal-breaker.
One of the most important steps in a tough conversation is understanding the other person’s story. How is the situation occurring to them? Although it’s human nature to try to prove we’re right in a conflict, if we can lean into the story of the other, we are much more likely to build a bridge and mend the relationship.
In the end, my sister and I talked it through and apologized to one another. My sister saw to be more careful when I was recording music, and I saw to be more aware of my tone. We don’t really know what Matt saw in that moment - whatever it was, it was good. He fell in love with Daria and married her just a few years later.
Thought to consider:
When the conversation becomes tough with someone, will you challenge yourself to consider how the situation is occurring to them?
Comment and share your thoughts!