If you feel often misunderstood and are left frustrated, irritated and angry after an argument or discussion, find your answer below.
How a phone call made me want to bash my head against the wall
A few years ago, there was a very exciting final at Wimbledon – Andy Murray against Milos Raonic. Andy was on fire and so was his opponent. The speed and power of the balls crossing the net were unbelievable and this was one of those matches that went down into history as very special.
My parents have been playing tennis all their lives and I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t miss such a great spectacle. So, I picked up the phone to alert them to it, as a gesture of kindness. The response from my father was aggressively dismissive: ‘I don’t like Andy Murray.’ It stopped me in my tracks immediately and I just answered that I really liked the way he played today and was going back to the television. And hang up the phone. Feeling fuming and frustrated.
There was a crossover of two currents of communication: connection and content.
The idea behind the communication about the match at Wimbledon was not the tennis match, but the idea to connect: ‘Let’s be kind and offer information that might be useful and helpful.’
This is about the actual content or result of the communication, which in this case was: ‘I don’t like your information.’
A well-meant gesture was being dismissed because the receiving party did not recognise the positive intent and turned it into an offensive action as they did not appreciate the content.
Communication becomes frustrating when there is a mix-up of content and process.
Another example of frustrating communication: connection and action
Two girlfriends, Abby and Joyce, have decided to meet up and go to the movies.
Abby is motivated by seeing Joyce and catching up. She might be disappointed as all they do is watching the movie and then go their separate ways.
Joyce is mainly motivated by seeing the right movie and of course, Joyce gets to see the movie of her choice, because Abby doesn’t really care which one they see, and is happy.
How to avoid frustration in communication
- When you encounter an upsetting or frustrating interaction, check in with yourself and make clear what your intention was: connection or content or action.
- Then analyse the response and recognise the connection, content or action.
- If there is an incongruency, adapt your intention to what the other party intends
- Or discuss the misunderstanding and correct the interaction
When you are involved with a narcissist, you will be very familiar with frustrating conversations as narcissists are masters in twisting and reframing. It wouldn’t make sense to explain or discuss the interaction, because they are not open to hearing your opinion. However, it will help you to understand the ‘twist’ and gives you control over what is happening. The best thing is to sway into the intention of the narcissist as this avoids an argument or discussion. Arguments and discussions never lead to any more clarity. Only to anger, sarcasm or put-downs from their side.
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