The golden rule of communicating
Three friends are standing on a street corner on a blustery day. The wind is whistling around them, the traffic is roaring, and they can hardly hear themselves think.
One of the people in the group says, "it’s windy, isn’t it?".
"No, it’s Thursday", bellows her friend.
"So am I", says the third. "Let’s all go and have a nice cup of tea".
The old jokes are the best.
Since becoming a student of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and particularly as I have trained to be a master practitioner, I have found that there is one golden rule of communication that, if you follow it, will just make you better and better.
And the crazy thing is that when you first read this rule you are going to just say "well that’s ridiculous". Because it seems counter to our everyday experience.
'The meaning of the communication is the response you get’.
This rule, is one of a series, of what NLP practitioners call the ‘presuppositions of NLP’. These are statements which are not necessarily true, but which, if you act as if they are true, will often serve you better.
In career, in relationships and in life there are times when, no matter your intentions, you are going to be misunderstood. When that happens, you are likely to get frustrated and defensive.
"But I meant well."
"How did you get that from that?"
"Did you even listen to what I said?"
I once had to deliver a message to a new colleague at the top of a building where I worked, and because it was urgent and needed a detailed discussion, I dashed up three flights of stairs to deliver it. I was well-meaning, but I was totally out of breath and the colleague mistook my breathlessness and flushed face for anger. You can imagine that the communication did not go well.
I thought this person was touchy and moody. She probably thought I was aggressive and difficult to work with.
Taking 100% responsibility.
So long as we were both in this state of blame, we were not taking 100% responsibility for what took place.
If I don’t take responsibility for what we are communicating, then I can’t change anything. If I take responsibility for the misunderstanding, I can make choices. I can wait until the air has cleared and apologise. I can use the telephone for urgent situations instead of dashing about like a headless chicken. In a similar situation in the future, I can remember to pause and catch my breath or at least explain the reasons why I look like an exploding beetroot.
Once I take that responsibility fully on my own shoulders, I naturally must take greater care over what I say and how I say it. I am forced to think things through more, to understand my audience better, to have fall-back plans for when communication doesn’t have the desired outcome.
If I am lucky, the person I am dealing with also has the same presupposition. That way there is twice the communication and double the chance of problems being resolved easily. That will be great, but in any case, by taking responsibility myself, I can make a positive difference now and in my future dealings.
Why not try living with this empowering concept for a week and see what insights it gives you, at home, at work and in relationships.