Have you ever been really self-conscious about something? Something on your person (hair color, blemish, bulges) or something you did (left a mess, told a lie, arrived late) that’s on the forefront of your mind? Have you noticed how any interactions you may have with people get filtered through that paranoid brain? You are so focused on THE THING that how you interpret the world becomes a wee bit skewed.
A certain motivational speaker friend of ours, Linda Larsen, speaks brilliantly on this subject in a funny and fascinating way. “What you name the thing, the thing tends to become.”
I was reminded of this last night while teaching a Muscle Works class at the Y. A student arrived late and was very flustered and apologetic as she was setting up her equipment. I said “Grab heavy weights” and she whipped her head around and stared at me with wide, startled eyes. I repeated what I had said and you could see the relief wash over her face. “Oh! I thought you said ‘Bad that you’re LATE!’” The whole class got a chuckle out of that one and it reminded me of the time I had misinterpreted what a co-worker had asked me when I was a seamstress at a costume shop in L.A.So I shared it with the class:
What I heard: “Do you have a weight problem?” (Which I did at the time.)
What she really said was: “Do you have a white bobbin?”
Others in class started sharing their misinterpretations:
What she heard: “Wow! That zit!” (Which she had on her chin)
What was really said: “Wow! That’s it!”
What she heard: “What about the hair?” (Which was a new style for her)
What was really said: “What about that player?”
What she heard: “God, not real true.” (She had just told a white lie)
What was really said: “Good to see you.”
All our efforts to communicate clearly, honestly and effectively can fly out the window if the listener has something else already in mind. This presents just another layer of the challenge of communicating clearly. What misinterpretations have you made in the past that can be laughed at now?