The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.
-James Cash Penny
The goal of communication is to convey your message over to the listener in a way that will enable them to understand your message in the way that you intended it to be understood. Problems arise when the message that the listener hears isn’t congruent with the message that the speaker intended on delivering.
Issues can occur when the speaker uses relative terms or terms that have shifted from their original meaning. In order to ensure that messages are understood correctly, one should try to be as clear as possible, choosing words that leave little room for ambiguity.
Example of a relative term:
A parent sends their teenager to the store to purchase a new pair of sneakers. The parent gives the child their credit card and says “Please don’t spend too much”.
How much is “too much”?
Does “too much” for the child mean the same as “too much” for the parent?
If the child spends $150 on the sneakers, did the child err? If so, who is to blame?
If the parent wanted the child to stay within a $100 budget for the purchase, they should have said so clearly. The child is not at fault for interpreting a relative term differently.
There are also terms that have changed over time. The term “ASAP” (as soon as possible) used to mean exactly that, please do this as soon as possible.
Today ASAP means something very different, it means: “Drop everything and get this done. This is your new #1 priority”.
If one party is using the old definition and the other party is using the new meaning, it will be problematic.
When engaging with people who are toxic, one thing that you will notice is that they are heavy users of vague terms. They do this for a reason. They are trying to set you up for failure, while keeping their hands clean.
Try to recognize this as soon as possible. If you can’t avoid engagement with them, try your hardest to make sure that they are 100% clear with their statements. It might cause some minor headaches initially, but it will save major headaches down the road.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.
You can email Yisroel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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