I have been dealing with some frustrations recently, insurance issues mainly, which don’t require detailing here, except to say that communication between a number of different parties with competing interests is, to say the least, a delicate matter. So I found myself expressing myself less than adequately with a friend, over something that didn’t need to be a problem. Dealing with business matters, I seek to contain my own frustrations in order to get the business done, so those feelings can get set aside only to re-emerge later in the wrong context. In this situation the general theme was “You’re not hearing me!”We have, as friends do, sorted out the miscommunication, but in the process I recognized something I’d like to share.
As an introvert (something I’ve written on before – see Introvert Express), I do much of my thinking, analyzing and making sense, internally. If you’re not familiar with introvert and extrovert traits, the processing of ideas is most comfortably done introspectively for introverts, while extroverts do most of their best processing of thoughts in interaction with others, out loud. Both traits have upsides and downsides, and all of us can and do stretch beyond that comfort zone, in the process expanding communication skills and perspectives. What is important to understand here is that when we are just a little fragile or sensitive, either on the particular topic or because of outside factors, we tend to retreat back well inside our comfort zones. That makes it more difficult to deal with differences in communication styles or ways of seeing the world. Hence, for me, at this particular time, “You’re not hearing me” really reflected that I wasn’t fully able to develop my thoughts, let alone express them.
I’m not going to try to tell you how to perfect communication, because as human beings we are both blessed and burdened with quirks and imperfections. There is something to be learned through the ways we stumble through difficult interactions, and it has the potential to bring us closer. What I would like to share are some things to remember:
- lots of factors affect how easily and clearly we communicate in any given situation, and many of them have little to do with the situation itself. Be patient and remember that the relationship is more important than this particular misunderstanding.
- if you’re an introvert, know that you may not always give the other person the benefit of knowing how you arrived at the words you are sharing, or why you are silent. If you need, ask for some time to process and make sure you come back. Your extroverted friend can’t read your mind.
- if you’re an extrovert, understand that an introvert may not be stonewalling you, and may need to process things differently than you. Ask open questions, don’t make assumptions about what silence means, and respect each others boundaries.
- if you don’t know whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it might be interesting to read up a little more on it. But in the meantime, what’s most important is to remember that we each communicate in a unique and imperfect way. Assumptions about what the other person means are usually wrong to some degree, if not completely. The best way to improve understanding is to be curious, open and interested in how another person experiences the situation, allowing them also to learn more about your experience.