DO YOU REALLY DISAGREE? Family history, life experiences, & mood can influence how we understand and react to what we hear.

“Interesting. I’ll really need to think about that a little more.”  You’ve made a suggestion to your boss, and this was her response. So what do you think? Does she really find your idea interesting? Is this a polite way of letting you know your input was considered briefly – then trashed? Or something in the middle – an idea that really needs a little more thought, before you receive a response?

Your reaction is likely to depend on your understanding of what was meant by this statement. And that understanding might be based on lots of experiences other than your interactions with your boss. What you learned about life as a child, your previous challenges on other jobs, your mood at the moment, how safe you feel in your world, your social skills – all play a role in how we interpret what others tell us.

And the intent behind those words, if clarified by your employer, might be totally different than what you imagined. Since, of course, the way your boss communicates is also influenced by all those same factors listed above. The result is that you may each interpret that simple statement differently, leading to a potentially damaging interaction with your boss.

You may have been told that it takes two to have an argument. Perhaps, but in this case, all it might take is one person to misinterpret this statement and react in anger – without checking out the meaning first. Impulsively acting on an angry thought rarely solves a problem and is more likely to create conflict, when none exists!

The solution? Check it out, before responding. Try saying something like, “I’d appreciate knowing what your instant read on this is. Do you see my idea as something we could use?” Then be prepared for the honest answer. You nay not like the response, but you won’t be left imagining the worst, with your anger and distress slowly building.

We all, at some time in our lives, have to deal with the challenges that arise from misunderstanding what others have said. However, if you frequently find yourself in conflict, you might want to take a look at why that happens.

What influences in your life have made  it so difficult to have these conversations? Could it be that you’ve just never learned a few conversational skills? Has your view of the world been shaped by how things were in your family when you were a kid? Do others seem to instinctively know those communication “tools” that feel like a foreign language to you?

Books and Internet searches yield some helpful strategies and might give you some ideas to use when you feel stuck and don’t know how to react, what to say or why this keeps happening.  If you still end up angry and in conflict after all your self-help attempts, this might be a good time to seek professional help.