At least half of what we worry about is a complete figment of our own imagination.
It’s an astounding capacity of the human brain to be able to take one iota of negativity, one hint of upsetting feedback, or one small challenging circumstance and exponentially multiply it through mental mushroom in the wrong direction.
I’ve found that this can especially be true when it comes to interfacing in communication with other people who are a different behavioral pattern from us.
People who we don’t naturally connect or communicate well with can sometimes be the sources of our greatest stress. Because their communication to us and ours back to them for some reason just regularly gets misinterpreted. It’s literally “miscommunicated.”
Like two people speaking two different languages, it doesn’t matter how many times we say the same thing over again or no matter how loud we say it, we just can’t seem to get through to them. And similarly we can’t seem to understand they’re explanation or defense to us.
In the absence of understanding their words, the challenge then becomes that we are left to our own devices of doing our best to interpret what they were actually trying to say.
And that’s a slippery road.
Because once we have conflict and misunderstanding with another person based on our inability to communicate with them, we inevitably start to question their intentions.
“Why are they saying that?”
“Why would they do that?”
“Don’t they know that _______?”
On and on it goes…
So how do we resolve these issues?
I’m not sure I have a good quick answer for that.
But I have learned what will make it worse and what not to do.
What you don’t want to do is mental mushroom.
You don’t want to start trying to read into their words more than they are saying.
One thing you can be sure of is that if you can’t understand what they’re saying to you when they speak to you, you certainly won’t be accurate at formulating their intentions in their absence.
Here’s a few signs that you’re allowing things in your head to spin out of control making it worse than it really is:
1. If you add words to what they actually said when you recount the conversation. And if someone challenges you on that, you respond with “well c’mon that’s what they really meant.” Chances are, no they did not. Chances are that the words they actually used to say what they said is closer to their legitimate intention the is your interpretation of what they said.
2. If you start spending time thinking about their motives. Once you rabbit trail down asking “why would they say/do that?” You’ve pretty much gone overboard. Not only will you not find accurate answers; you’ll also drive yourself crazy as there is no end to the amount of time you can spend thinking about this and the number of stories you can invent. None of which will bring you any resolution.
3. When you start forecasting negative extremes way out into the future. If your spouse says one thing that rubs you the wrong way and your mind immediately launches into asking “does that mean we need to get a divorce?” then you can be pretty confident your creativity is now running the show and not your logic. Your creativity likes to work way out in the future and with fantasy more than it does with the reality of here and now. Creativity working in the positive direction is vision but creativity working in the negative direction is fear.
4. When you have grand visions of conspiracy. The moment your brain starts correlating one person’s behavior with another, or one circumstance with another, that is a strong indication that your mind is creating more of a movie to keep you entertained than it is informing you with data you need to come to a resolution.
Interpersonal communication is essential for anyone to be a great salesperson, entrepreneur, leader, friend, or spouse. And of course in times of conflict and disagreement you will always be certain that it’s the fault and intentions of the other person that is the problem.
But chances are it might sometimes be you who is driving yourself a little crazy.