I asked one of my sons to dump the compost bucket out by the garden and to take the ½ & ½ which had gone bad, too. He said, “Ok” and headed to the kitchen. My wife stopped him and told me to ask him what I had said. So, I did. Then, with a sigh, which revealed a bit of aggravation, my son replied, “You said, ‘Dump out the compost bucket with ½ on one side of the garden and ½ on the other side.’”
What we had there was a failure to communicate.
For communication to occur, there are 3, and only 3, necessary components. You can add anything to them and still have communication, but if you take away any of these 3, then you do not have communication. Communication is a message with both a sender and a receiver. If the receiver chooses to reject the message, or disbelieve the message, then communication can still occur as long as the receiver understands the message.
Communication = message + sender + receiver
Some common obstacles to communication include:
- Not sending the message
- Not being clear when sending the message
- Not listening
- Passive listening
Not sending the message: someone simply shuts up and doesn’t speak. Well, even when this happens, they are sending a message, but it is usually, “Leave me alone”.
Not being clear when sending the message: finally diagnosing this problem may have saved our marriage. It certainly saved us many headaches and heartaches.
I would say something and my wife would react with heat. I would shout, “That’s not what I meant.” And she would shout back, “Then, why did you say it?” So, I would say something else and my wife would react with more heat. I would shout, “That’s not what I meant either.” And she would shout back, “Then, why did you say it?”
On this would continue until, at long last, she would ask, “Wait a minute, are you saying this?” My cautious response would be something like, “Not exactly, but that’s getting closer.” At this point, we were beginning to dig me out of the hole I’d been digging. When, finally, she would say, “Oh, you’re trying to say this…”, then I would sift it around for awhile until I would declare triumphantly, “Yes, I think that’s it!” Her encouraging reply was something like, “We were never going to get there from where you started.”
From this dialogue, we developed our “Do-over” rule. I love the “Do-over” rule!
Not listening: What did you say? I wasn’t listening.
Passive listening: someone simply isn’t paying attention. The easiest way to identify when this is happening is when I turn and ask something brainless like: “Did you just say, ‘Put lime in it?’” And the answer is always something simple like: “No. I said, ‘What time is it?’”
If the person is speaking directly to me, and I am aware of it, then I communicate that the person(s) talking to me aren’t really important enough for me to pay attention to them. How dishonoring! However, it’s not possible to pay full attention to everything that goes on around you, so passive listening will naturally occur from time to time. When this happens, Passive listening does provide some laughs.
For example: my son replied, “You said, ‘Dump out the compost bucket with ½ on one side of the garden and ½ on the other side.’”