Ever have a total dis-connect while in conversation? Perhaps you aren’t hearing each other well, or maybe one of you is speaking with a mouth full o’ pigs in a blanket. Either way, the conversation is a ring-around-the-rosy of misunderstanding. Awwkwaaard!
Here are a couple of questions I’ve received – and the tips I offered for addressing the issues.
Q. You’re in a conversation. Someone isn’t explaining their point of view clearly. Perhaps you just didn’t hear what was said. At what point do you simply nod and smile when you’ve already said “What?” a number of times and still can’t decipher what they’ve said?
A: Forget about it. If you sense you’re going to cause embarrassment or discomfort in the conversation, drop it. You know darn well when background noise, a heavy accent or a speech impediment is making things difficult. Instead of belaboring the disconnection, use this moment to change the subject or pull someone else into the conversation. Always have a couple of good conversation “redirector” questions up your sleeve – “Hey what do you suppose that artist was thinking?” [point at something on the wall], or “What would you say if that guy offered you $100 for your jacket?” Maybe these questions aren’t your style…so think of your own “traffic redirectors” for future use, before you need them.
Q: Someone says “What?” to YOU while sporting a blank or quizzical stare. You can tell it’s more than a language or audio barrier. They don’t understand what you mean…conceptually. They’re obviously not getting the point with the way you are explaining it. Do you repeat or (last resort) raise your voice in hope that they finally ‘get it’?
A: If they were hard of hearing, you’d see the hearing aid. Don’t raise your voice, rephrase your information. Too often it’s assumed that repeating yourself will magically create a new understanding where there was no understanding before. Negatory. You have to find different words to relay the same concept. CAUTION: A friend of mine often says the phrase, “Talk to me like I’m 2-years old.” While this is potentially cute & humorous, be aware that changing the way you phrase something does NOT mean dummifying it to the point of insulting someone else’s intelligence. It may simply involve changing the words you use, or painting a mental picture with metaphors or similes.
Got a great response to a continued “WHAT’D YOU SAY?” Do Tell.
Food for thought: Dealing with difficult people is a learned skill. The more challenging aspect is how to change your own habits. Be on the lookout for sandyspadaro.com‘s next post – My Advice Is King: Who’s the Jerk in This Conversation?