You Talkin’ To Me?
“The greatest communication problem is that the message sent is not the message received.”
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever said something and someone thought you said something else and got totally p!$$ed off at you? Have you ever congratulated a lady for being pregnant only to find out that she wasn’t? D’oh! Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. A quick search online and you’ll find that the world is full of unintentional insults.
Take for example the story of the guy who always used a Smurfs (remember those little blue things?) lunchbox to pack his lunch so that his food wouldn’t get squished in his backpack. One of his roommate’s friend said she was very surprised to hear that he was 23. She said she thought he was much younger. When he asked if it was because of his lunchbox, she said no, that she thought it was really cool and that a lot of her clients use them. “Clients” he asked? She responded with, “I work with handicapped children.”
Did she really mean to insult him or was she just complimenting him on his cool lunchbox? Was he reading between the lines when there wasn’t anything there or does she think he’s handicapped?
Another person once said to her friend, “at least I have our friendship. It’s better than nothing.” Hmmm… compliment or an insult?
Quite often, people read into things that just aren’t there. While it may be there sometimes, most often, it’s not. And what’s more, the very things that offend us the most are the things that we are the most insecure about in ourselves. If you feel that you’ve been insulted, then stop, pause, and ask yourself a couple of questions.
First, who was the person that said it and is it in their nature to criticize people? Put yourself in their shoes. It is said that you can walk a million miles in understanding by just looking at things from someone else’s point of view. Do they say strange things often or are they a straight shooter?
Second, were they just lamenting on something about their own challenges or was it directed specifically at you? If their mind was on other things and they said something nonchalantly, was that really an insult or just exactly what they said? If they are talking to you directly and have full awareness of it, hmm… otherwise?
And third, why does it bother you that they said what they said? Was it a direct reference to you and your skills? Was is something that bothers you regardless of who says it? Did they know that it would bother you if they said it?
You’ll be surprised at the answers and what’s more, you probably won’t be offended as much.
On the flip side, if you unintentionally insult someone, ask those same questions and put yourself in the other person’s point of view. Doing so will help you choose your words more wisely, and help YOU make more Friends and build a bigger Network. For after all, you don’t want to be like the thin person who said she was so fat and needed to lose weight while talking to her obese friend. Insult or just lamenting? Choose your words wisely and make it a Great one.