The Mis(sed) Communication

Living in southern Mexico where the spoken native languages (Spanish and many indigenous languages are spoken here) are not my native language has created a lot of interesting situations for me.

I’ve learned how easy it is, really in any language, to miss communicate.


The Fence 

Here’s a story to illustrate the basic idea. 

My neighbors, who are also my landlords, got a dog last year. They said they would be putting in a fence to create an area for the dog to run.

 

In my head, I pictured… 

 

 

 

Or this…

 

 

What actually happened was something different.

I was in my office talking with a client on Zoom and I watched them walk past my window with pieces of metal- some old, some new. Then an old wooden bed frame, a large metal bucket, a metal table, followed by large and dried palm fronds, tree branches, and other foliage. I was super curious about what they were doing but I really didn’t know what it could be.

An hour or so later, when I finished my session, I looked out and the dog was in the side yard contained by what they had built out of found materials.

I didn’t realize that I had a definition in my head about the word, “fence” and what it meant. But I did. In my head, a fence is a uniform structure built out of the same materials and is the same uniform height, usually requiring permits. Thank you, United States of America for that definition.

But in their minds, this was a fence. For them, a fence is whatever blocks the egress of the dog from the yard, a barrier that gets in the way of him escaping. It can be made of whatever materials are on hand that will do the job. 

He did escape a few times and some random chickens entered the yard through the holes, but they would just bring out more things and secure the perimeter. 

My definition wasn’t wrong.

And neither was theirs. 

But they were different.


Sometimes conversations and relationships are like that.

We might think that we understand what someone means but maybe we really don’t. One of the best things we can do for our relationships is to be curious about someone else’s experience and worldview, especially if it is different than ours.

This is super important even when we do speak the same language. Even if we live with people and we think we understand what they mean when they say something. My experience working with families has shown that we often don’t really understand what someone else means. 

The bridge between two people is listening and bringing curiosity, as if you’re living in a new country and don’t speak the language. Instead of assuming that you understand another person’s world and worldview, bring your curiosity, and invite them to tell you more about how they define things and how they make sense of their worlds.


It might look like this in real life:

 

| For Example |

Your teenager is telling you about school and how it’s different this year. It’s hard but maybe in a different way. You might know that school has always been hard for your daughter and feel like it’s the same but being curious can be really helpful for your relationship. 

Instead of…

“Mom, it’s feeling different this year. It’s still hard.”

“It’s not different. It’s the same thing I’ve watched you go through for the past 4 years.”

This response invalidates your teen’s experience and inner knowing and trust in your relationship to share important things.

Try this…

“Mom, it’s feeling different this year. It’s still hard.”

“Help me understand how it feels different to you. I know it’s been hard for a long time.”

This response validates your teen’s experience and inner knowing and builds trust in your relationship, especially where hard things are concerned.


| Another example |

Your young adult son is still living at home, partially because of how the pandemic has impacted your family, your country, and even some of your relatives. There have been two years of fear built up around getting Covid and now you’ve been diagnosed with Covid. You’re actually doing ok, nothing more than being tired, and you’re so thankful it is not worse for you right now. Your young adult son, however, is upset and having a very hard time.

Instead of…

“There’s nothing to be upset about. I’m fine.”

Try this…

“There’s been so much fear about Covid for two full years now. You even came home from university and had to finish college online. And you lost your grandmother after she got Covid. It’s disrupted your life in so many ways.

Help me understand what you’re worried about right now and how it’s feeling for you. I’m here to listen if you want to share.”


The world of another might be totally different from your world and that’s ok. While it can make some relationships more challenging, it is also what makes relationships interesting. Bringing your curiosity to the situations when someone in your life says something that is different than what you thought was happening for them can actually be one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship.

So the next time someone shares something with you that you think you understand, pause.

Bring in your curiosity,

think about my neighbor’s fence and what they might mean when they say something that may be different than you thought!!

 

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  • Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

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