Effective Communication: Context Over Content
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” – Dale Carnegie
Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance who had an idea much different than your own? Can you imagine this person insulting you in front of others because your opinion differed? Can you imagine a time when somebody won you over with an act of kindness without even having to explain their politics, ideas, or religion?
In terms of relationships, how we say something, where, and how really matters. Yelling at our spouses doesn’t help get our point across. In reality, yelling says much more than what you’re yelling about. It says that you don’t know how to communicate in any other way and that you don’t really care how you are perceived by your spouse, children, and others who may be around.
One lesson I learned with my husband, Franck, is to make agreements and establish understandings about big purchases before we set foot inside a store. I’ve noticed by watching others and observing our own actions that arguing over things (literally things) sends the wrong message to those around us: That we are not a cohesive couple who understands understands each other. Not to mention, it’s just plain uncomfortable to be around couples who fight in front of others.
I brought this up with my husband and he totally agreed. Now, we make sure to research, debate, and come to an agreement on the object of our desire before heading out to buy it. For men, this also saves time from actually having to be in the store for longer than fifteen minutes.
Try this with your significant other or someone you care about. Have agreements about what you will and will not discuss in public. Agree on how and how not to act in public. Once, you can master yourself in public, see how you’ll be able to transfer these types of understandings to the most private arenas of your life.
These types of boundary settings may seem “constrictive”, but think about how much time and energy you are saving from damage control after you’ve made a fool of yourself in all four types of contact.
Having personal truths and opinions are valuable as we make our way through life, trying to understand its vast complexities. Our messages sound off and come back to us in innumerable ways. How we send off our message matters and not only through what we say, but how we act, how we look, and how we say things.
Think about it. You may be right about something, but as long as you’re acting like a silly jerk, you’ll never reach anybody.
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