Just because someone is listening to me, I don't assume that they got the communication that I sent. Neither should you. So after I say something, I have created the habit of asking my listener what s/he heard from me. I also like to check in on my own perceptions about what I've heard from someone. Rather than assuming that my perceptions about what other people mean when they say something are accurate, I've gotten into the practice of asking if what I heard was what they meant to communicate to me.
Here's one great example:
I had assumed for a while that when my lover didn't ask for my support (because I certainly ask for his) that it was because he didn't think I had anything to give him. I was really upset about this story I was telling myself and it was affecting how I related to him. I found that I resented asking for his support, and did everything in my power to avoid it. I felt awful because it thwarted my natural inclination to ask. But he wouldn't ask me… It was a viscous circle.
When I finally checked in and asked "I've had the feeling that you don't ask me for help because you don't think I have anything to offer you. Is that accurate with what is happening for you?" He laughed. "Absolutely not," he said. "I just can't seem to ask. It's my issue. I really value your help," he said.
Lately we've been working with asking each other what we RECEIVE in our communications and it's fascinating how much of what is SENT is altered by way of how we hear things. He could say "I don't want to talk about it," and I will hear "You don't want to talk to me." We then have an opportunity to clarify and better understand how each of us uses language.
If you use the words "sense," "feel" or "intuit," you let your partner know "Look, this is a perception." No one wants to be TOLD how he or she is." I sense you're angry," is an opening. "You're angry," is a dead end. Then simply ask, "Is that accurate?" "Does that resonate with you?" "Is that what's going on for you?" It feels great to have someone care enough to really get it right and to be able to reflect your communication back to you with accuracy.
Perception Checking:Ask who you're talking to reflect back to you what s/he heard. If what you had hoped to send and what they received are different, you've got a place to start from to clear up any misconceptions and get yourselves both "on the same page."
After someone says something to you, reflect back to him or her what you've heard. Discover if it matches. If it doesn't it gives you both the chance to make sure that the message that's being sent is the one you're getting.
Author: Karen Brody