GOOD INTENTIONS GONE BAD: Observations on how and why friendly communication turns into hurt and anger….. and….. what you can do about it.

Recent experiences have left me pondering on just how easily good intentions can end up with one or more people feeling hurt, angry, and surprised that others didn’t “get” them.
In the process of observing myself and others as we all just try to be understood, I’ve gathered some random thoughts on the stuff that goes wrong when communication isn’t clear….. and, what you can do about it.

1) A friend or colleague just isn’t getting that point you’re trying so hard to make. You’ve explained in several different ways, and you still feel misunderstood.It’s easy to get stuck in that “why can’t you just understand me?” mode. But, if all involved in a conversation are stuck in that same unhappy place, the result is likely to be anger, not effective communication.

What you can do about it: Some self-talk might help. Remind yourself that taking the time to hear others’ thoughts could be useful. The harder we insist that people understand us, the less likely it is that they’ll actually want to know what we think.Allowing and soliciting feedback (by being curious, asking questions), rather than pushing your own agenda, is more likely to get you support and buy-in from those whose support you need. Or, at the very least, you might get some small acknowledgement that you do have a point of view. One of the hardest things for many of us to do is to put ourselves aside long enough to actually hear what others have to say about our brilliant ideas!

2) When a group comes together to organize a project, it’s rare when everyone agrees.That’s normal and ok. However, when some group members don’t express concerns or disagreements as they occur, others assume that all are on the same page. Conflict and anger are often the result of muddy, indirect communication along the path.

What you can do about it: When possible, suggest to the group that a protocol for considering concerns be developed. Take personal responsibility for making sure your own ideas and concerns get a hearing. Avoid surprises about your beliefs by distributing them in writing, when possible.

3) You’re on the job or participating on some collaborative project and one participant dominates the agenda, making collaborative progress difficult or impossible.

Worthwhile projects can be stopped in their tracks by just one person – at least in the short term. For a long-term or permanent stop to happen, it takes group collusion to prevent progress. That collusion happens when all members agree (sometimes silently) to appease and not concretely challenge that one disrupter.

What you can do about it: Use clear, short firm statements that reflect your wish to not have the process hi-jacked. For instance, faced with the declaration (made in a tone that suggests disagreement is futile) that, “we always do it this way and I don’t want to change it now,” you could respond with a three part statement that includes: acknowledgement of that point of view, your alternative viewpoint, and a request to stay on track/involve others in the group in making a clear decision. All said, of course, with an even, non-challenging tone of voice.

I’m always interested in hearing about others’ experiences.

How have you handled similar challenges?

If you’ve tried lots of self-help, but the strategies you’re using aren’t working for you, this might be the right time for you to reach out for a little more help. I offer a free phone consultation (310-475-1759) and would also be happy to hear your comments and concerns about anything I’ve said in any of my posts or elsewhere on this website.