From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Please Try Your Call Again!
Communication is a very delicate process. Whether you are speaking with someone who is
going through puberty, menopause, mid-life crisis, or any other personal experience, it is
ever so easy to be misinterpreted. How things are said becomes as critical as what is
said. The list of factors involved in communicating is endless...but I thought I'd mention
a few here.
- Timing and false starts. I usually begin my day with a word of "Good Morning"
to my children. The first response I usually get is, "I'm not going to
camp/school". With this, I know my day's work has begun. If I were to accept this
initial statement, my children would never go anywhere! As such, I often have to refine my
greeting by giving them five more minutes to sleep it off... and then we try again!
- Tone of voice and creating rebellions. Yell... and the world yells with you. The old
adage, "its not what you say, but how you say it, continues to ring true. People
usually respond in the same tone of voice that they hear; so if they think they've been
barked at, they'll usually bark back. To enlist a civil response, consider softening your
voice tone. The most assertive and effective leaders rarely need to raise their voices.
- Interfering when someone is busy. We often want immediate responses to our requests,
only to hear the equivalent of "I'll do it at the next commercial". Although
this can be frustrating, its important to recognize that each of us is pursuing our own
agenda, and it does take time to "shift gears". When we are interrupted by
anothers' demands, we are left feeling "unfinished" with our own pursuits and
thoughts, and often frustrated. As such, when trying to enlist someone's cooperation,
remember that they are already doing something which is important to them... and so, for
best results, their sense of timing should be respected.
- The ease of being offensive. People are SO sensitive. They are easily bruised by words,
tones of voice, looks and facial expressions. Our reactions to the communications of
others are often based on past experiences in which we suffered loss of face or
self-worth, and vowed never to take that kind of abuse again. When old memories are
triggered, conscious or not, great misunderstandings can occur. When you sense discomfort
in the listener, stop to discuss your meaning, and attempt to clear up misunderstandings
early in the game.
- The importance of erasers. If you've ever found yourself drowning in a misunderstanding,
or having started a discussion on the wrong note, don't be afraid to ask permission to
"start over". In our family it is not uncommon to hear the phrase, "please
erase that thought... what I really meant to say was...". It is important to allow
revisions in communication, because we often do interrupt others, ignore the fact that
they are busy when we want their attention, or approach them in the wrong way. But that is
no reason give up. Realizing that we are not perfect, and allowing others to
"erase" and try again, is a useful family tradition. Even when we blow our
lines, the message may still still be worthwhile.
The ability to communicate effectively is an important skill in every relationship. To
determine the appropriate approach, it is valuable to "put yourself in the listener's
place" and consider how they will feel listening to you, and how you would like to be
approached if you were them.
Among the great communicators I have known was my son's kindergarten teacher, whose
approach to her class was that of never raising her voice. This was truly a classroom
where you could hear a pin drop. Her technique was to speak in the lowest audible decibel
level at all times. Although many of her students might have had to crane their necks at
times to hear her instructions, they also never missed a word. Communication is certainly
not a matter of volume, but a matter of effectiveness. If your communications are not
getting the desired results, "hang up and try your call again!".
ęCopyright 1989, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Love and Marriage
Return to Personal Growth
Return to Table of Contents
Last Updated August 30, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.