Developing excellent communication skills is important in all relationships. One of the best ways to improve communication is to be aware of your own thoughts and behaviours, and understand that your viewpoint is just that, your own.
The truth is, we can only see, hear, understand and feel with “who we are” (which actually is an indication of where we are on our journey) at any given moment. Of course, this applies to everyone else too.
Have you ever found that despite sharing an experience with somebody, that their recollection is completely different?
Of course you have! We all have! So, why does this happen?
One reason is that words don’t have the same meaning from one person to the next. Each person has a different map for what a word means inside of them.
For instance, the words, “I love you” to one person may mean “I have a great feeling of love and warmth when I am with you,” and may mean nothing else. To another person, those same words may mean, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” To another, they may mean, I am happy with where we are in our relationship right now.”
How is it possible that 3 little words, can have such different meanings to people?
We receive about 2,000,000 bits of information per second (bps) and the brain can only process about 134 bps. Wow! That’s a lot to be missing!
So what happens to the rest? The rest are deleted, generalised and distorted based on filters including, belief systems, values, memories and past decisions. This process shapes the Internal Representations (I/R) that we make about an experience. So our experience, is not the experience itself. Likewise, the words we use aren’t the items they represent. They are merely our understanding of them.
So what does this look like? Let’s take a look at the story of Roger and Elaine below.
Roger and Elaine
Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.
And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ”Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?” And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.
And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let’s see ….February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . .Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.
And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed — even before I sensed it — that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.
And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.
And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90- day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the scumballs.
And Elaine is thinking: maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a goddamn warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their ….
”Roger,” Elaine says aloud.
”What?” says Roger, startled.
”Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ”Maybe I should never have . . Oh God, I feel so . …. ”
(She breaks down, sobbing.)
”What?” says Roger.
”I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. ”I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”
”There’s no horse?” says Roger.
”You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.
”No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
”It’s just that . . . It’s that I . . . I need some time,” Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)
”Yes,” he says.
(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)
”Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.
”What way?” says Roger.
”That way about time,” says Elaine.
”Oh,” says Roger. ”Yes.”
(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)
”Thank you, Roger,” she says.
”Thank you,” says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say:
”Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?”
While this humorous story may seem far-fetched, it is not so very much so. The monkey mind will always play tricks on us if we let it.
Poor Elaine! She must exhaust herself with her wild imaginings! Elaine is not even aware of her own filters at play and yet she assumes she understands Roger’s thinking. This is a very dangerous game!
Did you know that the brain does not distinguish between what is real and what is imagined? This is why we have physiological reactions and experience fear and anguish about things that have never actually happened, as if they already have. This is the Mind-Body Connection.
I’ll admit that I can remember a few instances in the past where my own imagination left me whirling and aghast at the impossible mess that was in front of me! First one domino is knocked over, and then the mind envisions the next, and the next and the next. Before I had any idea how, I was standing in the middle of chaos all of my own making, trying to defend myself against the imagined adversary that had been me all along!
So what can we learn from this? Perception is Projection. When we allow our imaginations to run wild and to make assumptions, it affects our feelings and it affects our behavior.
Pretty powerful stuff, isn’t it? So why not – Use Your Imagination For Good.
You have to take responsibility for the movie playing in your head. Stop the disaster film and create a flic where you’re the hero of your own story. YOU are in charge. You are the star, the director, and the producer.
As you learn to develop awareness and shift the way you look at the world (your perception) then your projection changes also. And so will your communication and your ability to connect with others on a meaningful level.
When you communicate without assumption, ask for clarity when you don’t understand, and speak from the heart with openness and honesty, you will have much better results.
Have you had any similar experiences? What have you learned from them?
Shelley Lundquist is an international best-selling author, motivational speaker, and Self-Mastery & Success Coach who uses her intuitive gifts and powerful transformational breakthrough processes to empower audiences all over the world in leveraging the unlimited power of their own potential.
By guiding you through a journey of self-discovery and a shift in the way you perceive yourself and the world, Shelley will help you create your best life—a peaceful, harmonious life of joy and abundance, that acknowledges body, mind, and spirit.
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