Communicating with “Those Idiots”

I was on the phone with someone the other day and found myself getting more and  more annoyed the longer the conversation went on.  Does that ever happen to you?

I had to catch myself, take a deep breath and allow myself to hear the message the person was trying to communicate. Our communication styles weren’t synching up and I was falling into the trap of not listening because the person’s words weren’t landing on my ears in the way I needed to hear them.

When that happens, we tend to initially judge the other person as ‘an idiot’.  We may think cruel things like “What’s wrong with them?”, “Why are they so cold?”, “Why don’t they get to the point?”, “Why are they so flighty?”

In reality, they’re probably just different than us.  If you’ve ever had any of those thoughts, here are some tips to help you understand and deal with people who think, communicate and behave differently from you.

1. Recognize that not everyone is wired the same way you are.
Our diversity is what allows us to solve problems and stay entertained by the human race.  Imagine how boring it would be if everyone were all the same.  How happy does Seven of Nine really look here?

2.  Take a deep breath and be patient.
We’re almost all in a hurry these days. If you are under a real time limit, politely let them know.  If not and it seems like they’re rambling, gently ask them questions to help them stay on point.

3.  Listen for the underlying message.
The person is telling you something for a reason – even if it’s not apparent to you. Repeat back what you’re hearing to make sure you’re tracking with them.

4.  Ask for what you want.
If you need more or less information, let the speaker know that.  We have varying needs regarding levels of information, relationship orientation, social interaction and pace.

Also, if you are the speaker, recognize that the way you are comfortable communicating might not be effective for the person you’re talking to.  It’s just as important that you be cognizant of the perspective into which you speak, especially if you’re trying to get something out of them.  Stay tuned for how you can be more effective in getting your message across and getting more of what you want.

2 thoughts on “Communicating with “Those Idiots””

  1. It is very challenging to end up in conversation with people that aren’t on the same page you are on. Measuring the cost of your time vs the spending of it in conversation that seems to go nowhere can be quite frustrating. I like your comment about being patient in that sometimes we need to promote good will and just listen. However, we should be cognizant (sp) of how much time we are willing to invest in that good will and have the ability to measure the value generated. I also like your comment on simply asking for what you want. I always encourage a good use of compassion and respect when doing so.

  2. Cecilia
    Your comments are so thoughtful. I’m happy that my ideas struck a chord with you. I like what you said about promoting good will, because that’s a great relationship-builder and building great relationships is what it’s all about!

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