What Exactly Aren’t You Saying or Hearing?

One of the first things I will tell you about myself is that my intentions are always good. That applies to how I interact with others in my professional life, my personal life and when it comes to writing blogs.

I admit that being consistent is something I am incredibly good at. I am reliable, I love to follow rules, regulations and time frames. I take direction well when I know where I stand, what needs to be done, what is required of me and what is not working and needs to change. Lately, my life has been very interesting, what with Quentin Tarantino taking it upon himself to write another chapter of my life. (If you haven’t heard me refer to this before, welcome to my weird way of looking at things. Then click here to watch a bit of one of my favorite scenes from the classic Tarantino flick “Reservoir Dogs”. WARNING: Not for the squeamish or sensitive ears… oh gawd… puns for days…. wait ’till you watch it.)

As a wellness coach, I work very hard at instilling or teaching my clients about consistency when applied to fitness, nutrition and lifestyle choices. It is the sum of all efforts, the small steps and small victories that add up. If you can rock out your workout consistently, follow through with it at the frequency and intensity that challenges you, the changes will most definitely happen. That applies to making lifestyle changes, breaking habits, adding healthy habits and of course, making changes to your eating habits.

It is worth saying and saying again, making too many changes, too quickly and in too short a span of time most often leads to short term success, followed by long term failure and frustration. Make sure you take the time to give yourself kudos when you are consistent about those little steps you’re taking.

When it comes to writing blogs, I do it purely for enjoyment. If it helps someone, makes them smile, has them reconsidering something in their life that leads to positive changes, then great! I selfishly get off on it! Being consistent in posting these blogs is something I choose not to be. Here’s why:

As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I am far too familiar with having a dichotomous mindset. Thinking on black and white terms, all or nothing, and not allowing or accepting grey areas has taken me a long-ass time to accept. It can still be uncomfortable for me when plans don’t workout, being spur of the moment and getting out of routines. I purposely look for opportunities to get outside my comfort zone and “go there”. Simple things like wearing mismatched socks, picking a different spot in the room when I participate in group classes, trying out a different sandwich when I hit my favorite sub shop (at least a decade’s worth of friggin grilled chicken breast, no sauce, on brown has gotten super boring!). Last night I had a piece of Skor Bar cake for supper, which was not only delicious, but it honored exactly what I wanted, guilt-free. (Of course I’ll share the recipe with you: Skor Bar Cake3)

There is a reason why my own workouts are not scheduled and do not follow much of a program or regimented schedule. I am consistent in working on proper posture and form, adding some regressions and progressions, and changing up the types of activities I do. I can so easily fall into an exercise rut. It’s been two years of listening to my body when it comes to activity and workouts. I do what feels right.

One of the worst feelings is when we’re plugging along in life, being consistent and doing what we think is awesomesauce, and suddenly find out that we were way off! How we consistently apply ourselves as partners, parents, co-workers/staff members, pet parents and within any relationship.

Recently, I was in a situation where this happened. I’d been doing what I believed was great work within a relationship! I was following directions, giving my efforts that I truly thought were above average and more than acceptable! I was consistent in doing what I understood was expected of me. Boy was I wrong!

Here’s the analogy I offered my friend when I explained to her what had happened:

For months, you show up at your mom’s place on Friday nights to take her out to her favorite restaurant followed by a movie. Then on Sundays, you drop in and mow the lawn for her, maybe take out the trash and water her flowers etc. Then mid-week, you drop by and deliver a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. This leaves you feeling great about your relationship with her. You keep doing these things because you truly believe this is making her happy and building on your relationship with her. You do it all because you love to do so and because you love her!

Then suddenly one day, your mom breaks the news to you: She hates that restaurant and the damn food that they serve. She tells you she’s not a fan of movie theaters and would really prefer to stay at home and watch Netflix. And why, she asks you, do you insist on doing her yard work since this is one of life’s pleasures for her and you’re taking it away from her? Finally, she drops the bomb and tells you that the bouquets are nothing but a bunch of soon-to-be-dead plants that you’re wasting your money on. She’s into chocolate, damn it! Not dying plants on her table!

WTF?

When something along those lines recently happened in my life (yes, I will remain ambiguous in order to protect privacy and conserve relationships), I was stunned, to say the least. It was more like shell-shocked. What do you mean you don’t like what I’ve been doing or how I’ve been doing it? How long has you felt this way?

Three possible scenarios to consider: First, there was no feedback given, either positive or negative. Second, there was feedback given but it wasn’t understood because it was not clearly laid out or offered in an effective form of communication. Third, there was feedback given but it was ignored either consciously or subconsciously since being consistent seemed so much more important.

The first possibility of having a gross lack of feedback was admitted and acknowledged to me in my situation. Silence equaled ignorance. Without telling me what was expected, how to go about it, what was going well and what was not, it would be both counterproductive and unrealistic to expect me to be a mind-reader.

If you’ve ever started a new exercise program or were new to lifestyle change, you may very well know the value of getting feedback. Why did you gain weight? Why couldn’t you complete those reps? What could have made that group class fit into your schedule? That’s why communication with your wellness coach is so important. Ask them questions, tell them where you’re at and expect them to give you feedback. You may or may not like their answers and suggestions, so be prepared for that. Ask them to clarify when you don’t understand. After that, the work is on you to follow through.

The second scenario is all too common in so many relationships! If you don’t deliver the feedback or information in the language that is understood by the other party, the effectiveness is absolutely decreased. The message may be misunderstood, assumptions made, performance and attitude become lax. The undesirable behaviors could continue or become worse, while the desirable ones are never recognized. When coaching clients, I have absolutely needed to determine what type of communication and learning style of the individual. Are they:

  1. Visual: Seeing pictures, seeing examples or demonstrations, appearances. Printed material, videos, slides and images are very effective with these types of learners.
  2. Auditory: Vocal cues, spoken words, tone of voice, music, phone calls. Easily distracted by noise, are intent listeners.
  3. Kinesthetic: Doing, moving, touching, acting out, hands on experience. Often uses more words than is necessary to articulate what they’re trying to convey.
  4. Auditory Digital: Often show characteristics of the first three styles of communication/learning. Prefer communication that makes sense, has processes, steps, sequences. Analytical.

When it comes to feedback, it is important to deliver it using the style/s of communication that works best for the audience in various settings. When it comes to “love languages” within a personal relationship, what language does the other person best understand and respond to as opposed to delivering feedback to them in our language or the language that we think they’ll understand. Knowing your loved one’s love language can make communication so much easier. It’s a concept that I think is helpful and which I’ve read about over the years in a variety of articles and books about relationships. Like any advice, including this blog, you take and apply what you think will work for you.

I’ve been married for two years and I am still very much in the process of learning what the most effective ways or love languages work with my husband. I am very auditory and kinesthetic when it comes to learning, feeling valued or loved. However, my husband is often auditory digital. Mom loves to receive greeting cards and small gifts, and when she’s asked for my help with workout programs, she prefers seeing images and videos.

I think many of us just assume that our loved one’s boat floats for the same reasons as our own, or that our co-workers, friends and family all share the same style of communication as we do, and that is simply not true. We must learn what their style of communication is, and then apply ourselves to honor that.

The third point is a difficult one to admit for me, and for most of us: I heard you but I choose to ignore you. The reasons behind that could be anything from lack of respect for the one who’s giving the feedback, lack of faith in their abilities, a mistrust of their intentions or even a fear of rocking the boat, looking stupid, rejection or reprimand. Things then fall into the I’ll-just-keep-doing-what-I’m-familiar-with category. It’s a normal, human response of self-preservation.

Alright, so once you know, it’s time for action!

  1. Make those changes which you realize were expected of you.
  2. Work on and practice expressing your expectations. If need be, be clear on what type of learner you are, what type of communication works best for you.
  3. Honor your audience’s communication styles. If you’re not sure, ask them! Learn how to deliver information to them. If it’s a personal relationship, learn their love languages.
  4. For the love of all that is holy, be flexible and be patient! I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating: We are not concrete! We are organic. Things change. Go with the flow.

I’ve had the pleasure of working and volunteering for different organizations since moving to the United States. They all catered to different populations and offered a variety of goods or services. All of these organizations shared customer service and satisfaction as a common goal. However, the similarities, as far as communication styles between management and staff, could not be any more different.

From my experience, those companies that frequently lacked continuity and offered confusing information to their team members, also did not focus on what types of communicators they had to run the show, so to speak. When communication was not uniform and delivered or offered in the various ways that humans need, the results were incredibly frustrating. For example, new policy would be created but was only announced or offered audibly during an exclusive meeting, a large chunk of team members were left clueless. When memos or emails were sent out, the rest of the learners lost interest (Ever worked somewhere when you had a bazillion unopened emails in your Inbox?). The email may have worked great for people who were visual, but what about the kinesthetic peeps? They got left out because it’s not hands-on. I am a very kinesthetic learner. Reading something a dozen times will disinterest me. Ask me to do it, let me practice it and it will stick.

Probably one of the most damaging forms of communication is when someone feels there is a perceived threat by the other person when sharing ideas, suggestions or even when asking questions. We’ve all been there. You want to have an open dialogue but be damned if you’re going to get shot down for it! Feeling stupid, ashamed, belittled, condescended or devalued are some of the worst feelings to experience when attempting to communicate. It leads to resentment and sometimes can go as far as a complete communication breakdown. (Here’s the video by Led Zepplin!) In the workplace, this frustration will eventually affect customers. It’s not difficult to understand why some organizations experience high turnover and poor reviews.

Some companies, regardless of their size, take the time and effort to invest in the relationships with both their staff and their customers. They take the time to communicate effectively and using the various methods necessary when dealing with a variety of learning styles. Allowing for more one-on-one time, or small-group meetings with team members can encourage the individual person to feel a sense of ownership and investment in their job.  Being clear on what is expected, whether in a personal or professional relationship leaves a lot less room for error and hurt feelings, and a lot more room for overall satisfaction and harmony. Being transparent, giving and receiving frequent feedback (positive and constructive, builds trust. It’s nice to know what we need to do, as much as it is to know that if we make mistakes or fumble, we have the opportunity to rectify, learn and move forward. There is something to be said when BOTH parties are open to feedback and willing to act on it.

For the record, I cannot stand cut flowers. Never have. I love anything chocolate, inexpensive chachkies or odd-ball items from the thrift store, red wine and live plants. These are my love languages. Just sayin’!

I’d love to hear about your communication styles. What type of communicator do you think you are? What is your love language when it comes to personal relationships? What communication style are you most comfortable and least comfortable with?

Feel free to practices your visual style of communication by posting a comment or emailing me!

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