Perception Skews Communication

I have a friend who is terrified of people. He is great with computers, but people just plain scare him. On the other hand, my mother loves people. She assumes everyone wants to talk to her. Recently, my sister and I hosted a garage sale at my parent’s home. Everyone left acting like our mom was their new best friend. Man working on computer communicationPeople hugged her, walked her to the car to see their babies, sent her a thank you card in the mail for her hospitality. I’m not making this up! It really happened. It’s obvious that my friend and my mom approach people from two different perspectives. If you add to that some kind of message being communicated, wouldn’t it make sense that each of them would receive the message differently? Perhaps the communication is, “Hello, how are you?” My mom believes you really want to know and this is an opportunity for you to become fast friends. My friend believes you’re after something and he might get hurt.

Our diverse perspectives skew our communication.

People who are focused on the task at hand may come across as bullish or disregarding. When the truth is they just weren’t focused on the people, they were focused on the task. Someone who is focused on relationships may come across as lazy or inefficient. When they just value people more than tasks and will always stop to connect with individuals.   Both are necessary and both impact the way we see the world.

Women talking communicationBehavioral style also plays a role in how we interact with each other.

Those who are more analytical keep us organized, accurate and in control while sometimes appearing inflexible. Spontaneous-types are typically persuasive, empathetic, and perceptive. But they can come across as irresponsible. Abstract thinkers see the big picture, are typically optimistic and innovative, but may seem impractical. Action-oriented people are resourceful, objective and determined, often coming across as impatient. Each of these styles brings something valuable and essential to the table. Judging their intent based on our own style is always a mistake.

Moving at different paces.

Not only do we have differences in focus and style, but also differences in pace. People move and communicate at different rates. In Texas we speak slow and think slower. Our friends in New York City move, speak and live at a faster pace. They may think I’m uninterested in what they have to say. My lag time is at least seven seconds behind — they’ve stopped talking, but I’m still processing. Because of their speed, I could see them as anxious or frantic, but that’s just the pace that works for them.

Rather than the lonely, rhythm-less drones of a solitary voice, together we get funk and jazz.