That's What I Said, But It's Not What I Meant!
29th March 2011
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That's What I said, But it's not what I meant!

It's easy to communicate isn't it? And more so in todays environment with phones and electronic gadgets which means we can keep in contact with each other where ever we are.  Or has the art of communication been made more difficult?  How many times have you sent an email and received a strange response back?  The way that you had written it was not the way it was read at the other end.

Communication is received by people in different emotional states. It is the essence of making contact with other people yet the easiest way to be misunderstood.

Communication happens on two levels, the literal meaning of the words and the emotional response that the words evoke in the person who is listening. 
Then there is the body language that is shown at the time if face to face.

The receiver makes his/her assumptions about the meaning and intention behind the words.

The opportunity for misunderstandings is great.  Mishearing and thus receiving the wrong message through reinterpretation can cause total break down in relationships.

Here is a simple example:-

“Sue, have you seen my pen?”

Answer 1


These are the literal and factual answers to the question.  Bob will then act accordingly and no conflict will occur. If the answer is “Yes,” Bob will probably then ask “Where is it?”

Answer 2
“No I haven’t got it, why would I want your pen?”

Here Sue is responding to past experience of using Bob’s pen and not replacing it where Bob can find it.

Answer 3
"Are you accusing me of taking your pen?"

This response indicates that Sue is sensitive to being accused of stealing and takes a defensive position.

Answer 4
“Why don’t you look for it yourself, you are so lazy expecting me to do everything for you."

Sue reaction indicates her feelings about Bob being lazy and putting upon her.

Answer 5
"You are so untidy and careless.  You should keep it in the same place then you would not keep losing it."

Rather than answering the question Sue takes the opportunity to chastise Bob about what she believes is his untidiness and carelessness.

Answer 6
"Yes it is on the kitchen table"

The straight forward and helpful answer to the question!

Answers 2 to 5 will almost certainly lead to conflict and argument will ensue.  The extent to which this will escalate will depend on how each of them is feeling at the time and whether either want further argument usually about matters totally unconnected with the pen.  Either of them could try to defuse the situation but often once the argument starts it's difficult to stop.

How often have you thought you are always bickering with your other half and can never remember what it is about?  Do you feel sometimes that whatever you say just leads into an argument?  Is it all your fault or theirs?  Why won't they listen to you?

I'm Helen Springer and I have over 22 years experience as a Relate Counsellor. I'm a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy BACP and am a psychodynamic counsellor specialising in couple relationships.  If you feel the need to talk to someone, please do contact me on 01462 713685

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