Friday, April 22, 2005

Understandings and phone numbers. They are probably the two items that we constantly mix up or get wrong on a regular basis. And in both circumstances, they tend to lead us to persons we weren't trying to contact. Misunderstandings and wrong numbers... "Sorry about that, I must have the wrong number..."

When a phone number is incorrect, we simply look the number up again and redial. Nothing complicated about the process - just find the correct number and dial. It's a simple deductive process.

Misunderstandings? Not so simple and not so deductive. But something can be learned from the numbers we dial; the goal is the same - we want to talk to the correct party on the other end. And here's how:

Excluding the area code, there are seven numbers on a domestic call ( 123-4567 ). And in like fashion, there are seven elements to be considered in all understandings. And here they are:

1: The Other's Feelings - There are volumes of information on meta communication; text information intertwined with our feelings and our body language - all used to send messages to another. Rarely are there topics or conversations that go by that are void of emotion. We talk about things because they interest us, excite us, anger us, etc. So what are you noticing about the person's feelings within a conversation?

2: The Other's Unsaid Motives and Desires - When we discuss topics, there always seems to be a need to be heard - without being judged - by the other person. Both persons in a conversation feel this way. Often times, misunderstandings occur when feelings aren't respected. The other "land mines" in this area are questions that are loaded; questions for which a person already has an answer or expects a certain answer. What is the other person trying to say but hasn't said?

3: The Other's Unknown Motives and Desires - This is that area we find a lot of misunderstandings. A conversation started and got heated very quickly. We don't know why we got our buttons pushed or angered so quickly and we can't figure out why the other person did as well. We operate a good portion of our life in this area: not fully knowing our motives or desires before we act or speak. And legitimately, there are those that operate "from the gut" or their intuition. This has been termed the sixth sense that we all have and rarely utilize. But when we introduce intuition and gut feelings into conversations, it can frustrate others who are looking for solid facts and truths.

4: The Values of the Other and You - Ever notice why interview questions are so general? And when they are specific, they are usually focusing on your knowledge base or how you feel or think about a particular topic. It would be unethical in many interview situations to ask a number of value-based questions, but it is at the very heart of our national debates, political system, lobbying efforts, our religious systems and our relationships. It is what drives us and when they come in contact with an opposing value at warp speed, damage will occur, feelings will be hurt and misunderstandings will develop. Bear in mind that many of our values can also be easily stored in #3 above - because we have chosen not to explore them and their origins.

5: Your Feelings - This is very similar to #1, but it is much more personal. Knowing your feelings on a particular topic - prior to a conversation or discussion - is a powerful instrument in better understanding yourself and others. At the same time, listening to someone else's feelings does not, in any way, diminish what you are feeling about a particular topic.

6: Your Unsaid Motives and Desires - This is very similar to #2 above, but again much more personal. What are you - without saying it - trying to get the other person to believe or understand? And do you realize that you may never get them to feel or think the way you do?

7: Your Unknown Motives and Desires - That Johari's window of the unknown within each of us. It is that area where many of our fears and anxiousness emerge. We don't know the source, we don't investigate the source and we find that these fears and anxiousness can overpower us at times... and overpower others as well.

Having said all that and taking into consideration these seven elements, it may move your one step closer next time to asking the all-important question, "Is this the party I was trying to call?"

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