Monday, December 26, 2016

Bad Things Grow In The Dark

Misunderstanding and assumption can be the cause of serious pain in our relationships. When we don't know "why" someone did something, we begin to fill in the gaps with our own assumptions and we usually play out the worse case scenario in our minds.

When there are gaps or weaknesses in the chain of communication, and people are unsure about where they stand or what the expectations are, at best we fall short of the desired outcome. At worst, relationships can be fractured and unintended dots can be connected that may be difficult to undo.

We are always going to (at least initially) approach things from our own perspective. We live in a reality based on our current circumstances and our personal set of beliefs and values. This is normal, and I think, perfectly okay. It allows us to view things through our own lens and helps us to make decisions based on the things that we believe in and value.

The challenge comes when we don't share our perspective with those we are (or should be) communicating with, or when we don't seek or receive the perspective of the person across the table. I don't know that the most important thing is to be understood or to understand, that may not always be possible. I do, however, think that it is possible to hear and to be heard.

Without this, we are in the dark. And when we are in the dark with our understanding or even just a basic knowledge of a given situation and where we stand in that situation, we start to craft our own understanding. And we usually don't do a very good job of hitting on reality.

So what happens is that our mind starts to wander and wonder. As we seek for an explanation or clarification, we start to draw conclusions, which are usually based on our fears, insecurities, or judgments (of either ourselves or of others).

And the more that we don't get our answers (because we generally won't find them on our own) the more those judgments and insecurities can grow. And if this festers too long, it can really fracture a relationship. As we sit in this darkness, these negatives continue to grow.

My encouragement to you (and me) is twofold:

1) When you are in a position of power or authority, or when you are in "control" of a situation of communication, make a concerted effort to be clear and just in your interactions. As a leader, boss, or coach, work to not leave too much gray area in terms of where you stand, what the expectations are, or what role you need that person to fill. This is as true on teams as it is in one on one relationships.

2) When you are "in the dark" don't start connecting the dots of fear, insecurity, and judgement in your own head. It generally won't lead to any place other than more darkness. Outside of the other person explicitly telling you why they did something, you probably aren't going to figure it out. (Even if they do tell you why, that may not be the real reason any way. There isn't enough time here to explain that, but just know that people aren't always who they say they are, so trying to get them to tell you why isn't always a good use of our energy either). Make the effort on your end, to be heard and to hear from them. Seek clarification on the situation, or on where they stand. If you can't get that, then make a determination about what you can do to be most successful in that moment, and keep moving forward (or it may mean that you have to stand still or move sideways). Just don't stay in the dark.

Much Love,

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