We’ve all heard ourselves, and others, say it: “Was it something I said?” often in total confusion, as we wrack our minds to work out what it was we said that could have resulted in the reaction we see in another.
I wonder though, how often it is what has gone UN-said that really causes most communication breakdowns?
“Sorry” or “Thank you” would often be enough to stop another feeling taken advantage of.
“How was your day?” or “I want to hear about what you’ve been up to.” can be equally effective.
A couple of years ago, I was working with a mentoring client, who was finding it difficult to wind-down from work in the evenings. To top this off, he told me that when he tried to talk to his wife about his work, he could see the interest in her face drift and he suspected she was planning dinner rather than really listening.
Asking your partner how their day was does require you to care about the answer. Give them real attention, turn off the mobile and social media can wait for 20 minutes while the two of you talk. And listen.
I heard from a great friend last week, who is celebrating 15 years of working with her business partner. I asked her what she thought their “secret” was. “Communication” she replied. “Communication, communication, communication.”
“We talk to each other constantly. I’m sure a stranger would thing we’d lost the plot” she laughed, “But it works for us.”
I asked her whether they ever disagreed on things, argued about which clients to work with, or what focus they wanted for a project. “All the time” she replied “But with respect and a willingness to listen to each other.”
The next time your partner, or a friend or family member seems upset with you, ask yourself if it could be something you haven’t said.
I’m off to say “Happy Birthday” to my father, who’s 84 today – I can only imagine the reaction I’d get if I didn’t remember to say that!