Recently, I have been frustrated in a number of conversations when the person I was speaking with asked me a question and then interrupted or hijacked the conversation before I finished my answer. Every time I reached a comma in my thought, they heard a period. As a result, they misinterpreted my message, started speaking, and took off in a conversational direction that left me wondering if we were in the same conversation.
I didn't say anything at the time. Other people were around, and it just didn't make sense to make an issue of the mis-communication. I was frustrated, but it wasn't important enough to embarrass the other person by confronting them in front of others.
Later, as I reflected on the event, I started getting really irritated. I played the scenario in my mind again, and I started to ask myself how I could make them stop interrupting me.
Almost immediately, I realized that my thinking was flawed. I was focusing on something that I could not control – the other person's behavior. I got all wrapped up in how wrong they were and I looked right past an obvious answer. I failed to see that I might be communicating in a way that led them to believe I was finished when I wasn't. Maybe, just maybe, they didn't even know that they were interrupting me.
I thought about that perspective for a moment, and I started to ask myself a new question. I started to wonder how I could change my communication approach and get to the point faster so that it was more clear to the other person the difference between commas and periods in my speech.
The person in question is very outgoing. They process fast. They speak fast. They decide fast.
I am more reserved and analytical. I analyze before I speak. I carefully consider my words. I strive to make sure that my answer is “correct.”
I study effective communication skills. I teach and coach others on developing effective communication skills, and I wasn't really using them. I was so focused on covering all the details of my answer to make it “correct” that I failed to condense it so that it could be heard. I got in my own way.
Eventually, I realized that I had to get over myself and my frustrations if I wanted to communicate effectively with this person.
They are different from me. They will always be different from me. I could label them as rude and inconsiderate, but I know them better than that. They're not rude. They're just fast paced.
I get in my own way when I get too analytical. How do you get in your own way? Do you speak too directly? Do you laugh when you should be focused? Do you avoid when you should confront?
We all have our own struggles. The next time you have a communication challenge you might consider this thought:
Get Over Yourself to Develop Effective Communication Skills