A guest blog post by Coen Tan
After a very filling buffet dinner, you agree to head over to your friend’s place for a chat. There, your friend’s mum has just baked some fruit cakes and is enthusiastically bringing them to you. You are absolutely stuffed. So what do you do?
You want to reject the offer, but you fear you may offend your friend’s mum. Therefore, you compromise by taking a few half-hearted nibble at it and although it’s really very nice, you really cannot stomach it anymore. When asked “How are the fruit cakes?”, you smile sheepishly and reply “Very nice aunty, very nice.”
What communication lessons can we learn from this scenario?
Never visit the place of a friend after buffet!
Jokes aside, your friend’s mum is suffering from a communication blind spot called intention-bias.
Yes, your communication may fall flat in spite of, (and shockingly) because of your best intentions.
Just like your friend’ mum. Her intentions were great! She thought she was being loving and showing hospitality by serving her painstakingly made fruit cakes… great fruit cakes at that!
However, she was looking at the situation from her point of view. She wasn’t coming from the point of view of her intended recipients. If she was, she could have asked “would you care for some cakes?”
This would have given you the permission to say “I’d like to, but no thanks because I’m absolutely stuffed from the buffet.”
What could transpire from the “no” can be other options. For example, she could offer you some water instead, or she could offer you to take some home with you to be stored and consumed another day. Everybody wins!
I’ve learnt this simple but profound truth recently in my own life. I was going out with my ex-girlfriend. I know you may be thinking going out with ex-girlfriends are never a good idea, but hey, I absolutely adore this lady. She had just got out of another relationship and was nursing her broken heart, and she probably needed space.
However, just like the over-enthusiastic mum, I was very anxious to be reconciled with her, and I was coming on too strongly towards her. She backed away because there was no space in her heart to receive my affections.
I understood a very profound lesson that day, that when it comes to communicating, we can be blinded by our own intentions. We may become even righteous about those intentions, and that actually stands in the way from really getting our points across.
How then, can we apply this knowledge?
If you’re a parent and you’re reading this, do you find that sometimes you can come down too strongly towards your children? You may be protective of them and know what’s right and wrong when they were smaller, but did you adapt your methods when they become teenager? Your tough ways may alienate and create separation rather than connection that you really want with them
Whether you’re communicating as a parent, spouse, co-worker, boss, subordinate, or salesperson. The tendency is to come from your personal point of view, especially if you have noble and great intentions.
However, if you want to let your message be received and acted upon, then you have to practice coming from other people’s points of views. This is a simple idea, but difficult practice to follow. With conscious awareness, increased mindfulness and practice, you can overcome your communication blind spot and become a more influential communicator!