Several years ago my two young children, my husband and I were traveling in the car. The traffic was heavy and my husband was tense at the wheel. The kids were giggling and playing in the back seat and in frustration my husband said, “Will you kids please be quiet so I can focus on the traffic”. The kids responded by lowering their voices and playing in a less rowdy fashion. Their father became more agitated and said, “Quiet down, NOW!” The children lowered their voices a bit more and continued to giggle and play. Their stressed father then turned around and yelled, “I said BE QUIET!!!”, at which point the shocked children stopped talking completely and the mood in the car became incredibly tense.
When I later reflected on the situation I realized it had been a failure to communicate. When my husband used the word “quiet” he meant silent, but our children interpreted it to mean less volume. A very uncomfortable situation was caused by the lack of a common word definition.
What happened in the car that day is very common when people attempt to communicate. We often think we’re having a meeting of the minds but later discover there’d been no connection at all. How often have you walked away from talking with someone thinking they’d understood what you said, and then found out s/he had no clue what you were talking about?
Has this happened to you? Do you think that because you’re talking you’re communicating? Are you confident that the message you hope to send is being received exactly as you intend?
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