The image below landed in Facebook the other day. It didn't come from a "friend". I think I got it because Facebook has "my number", as it were - an algorithm set-up! So be it! I'm glad to have the image. I've seen enough of similar graphics to appreciate the reality it conveys.
This graphic reminds us that understanding another person is far more difficult than it first seems. What if we take it as a
good rule of thumb
that we never really understand what a person has said -- not until we can communicate to the speaker's satisfaction what we have heard him or her say? It is best to check whether we are seeing the world the way the person we are talking to is seeing it. One way to check is to reflect in our own words what the speaker seems to mean. The speaker's response will tell us whether or not we have fully understood.
Here's a strategy to try that we use sometimes in
. It's especially helpful when you're immersed in a controversial topic. Before starting a conversation,
agree that before anyone can make a point or express an opinion of their own, they must first restate the previous point or opinion that has been spoken
. Parroting the words of the previous speaker proves that you've heard only the speaker's words. So,
the restatement must be in the listener's own words and accurate enough to satisfy the speaker.
Extra time and effort? Yes. But does what you're talking about matter? Do you care about it? If yes, then this strategy is worth a try. It actually generates calm because it minimizes reactivity. It gives people a chance to relax, slow down and refrain from speaking out of judgment or defensiveness. And, surprisingly, it can turn a tense conversation into fun and enjoyment. Yes, really!