“Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows” Ben Stein
Life would be difficult without the blessing of significant relationships as an integral part of our lifestyle. However although relationships can be the source of much joy and happiness, they also can frequently be a source of pain, stress, conflict and anxiety. It is a sad factor that when we have a close relationship the openness and vulnerability that we share with that person has the ability to bring both happiness and also pain.
There is a natural response when we feel hurt to protect ourselves from being hurt again. Frequently this protection involves creating a wall around the heart, distancing the emotions to avoid pain. This very act may well protect a person from feeling more pain, and keep it at bay, but also means shutting out the potential of enjoyment in the relationship as well. A wall keeps out both good and bad!
Unfortunately it is a fact that too many people become detached from potentially meaningful relationships through misunderstanding and assumptions about the other person. The reality is we can never fully know a person and understand them, and often we see things from a totally different perspective, and even speak a different emotional language. A tone of voice, a look, or a comment can easily be misinterpreted, and our response is to feel hurt or offended. If this happens it is all too easy to into a pattern of assuming and responding to that assumption until the whole incident becomes a large issue.
How does this situation occur? The basic problem arises from the fact that people are afraid of what they don’t know. They assume facts that may not in reality exist, and then build prejudices around those assumptions. Bad decisions are then made based on those assumptions, on rumors, other people’s opinions or perceived behaviour.
Many of these situations could have been non events, if time had been taken to check out the actual facts. If a person is aware of the actual facts about a situation, person, problem or opportunity, then decisions can be made based on what is real rather than what is being perceived.
“There may be some substitute for hard facts, but if there is, I have no idea what it could be.” J. Paul Getty
For example, I go to a social function and meet my friend. She has a scowl on her face, seems aloof and practically ignores me and my efforts at friendly conversation. It would be easy for me assume that she is mad at me, and spend a lot of energy wondering what I had done to upset her. I may start tiptoeing around her anticipating a blow up.
A healthier alternative for our relationship would be to say “You don’t look happy, what’s going on?” By checking out what the real facts are I will either discover whether I really did do something wrong, or that something has happened that I don’t know about that is totally unrelated to me. Either way I am in a better position to help lighten her mood as I know the actual facts.
When communication issues occur in a relationship the best way to find out the truth is to ask questions to discover what the other person actually means. What a person means can be very different from an interpretation from your different perspective. Sometimes people may make a statement, and not tell you the reasons why they said it. This can lead to a minefield of speculation and assumptions. This can often happen when communicating with men. A man tends to answer questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, (or a brief response) and not give any explanation for his position. Women are more likely to give reasons. So by asking questions such as ‘Do you mean……’ you will get more clarity and will not be left wondering what is going on.
It does take more commitment to the relationship to push through communication difficulties and not rely on assumptions. We prefer to not speak or confront when we sense an atmosphere, or feel hurt by a comment. However if you keep to the adage ‘When in doubt, Check it out’ and push through those uncomfortable feelings you will reap the benefits in the relationship. Your relationship will become stronger and you will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of each other. So……… Don’t doubt, Check it out!