Earlier this week someone was talking about the book Crucial Conversations, and as I am always interested in communication, I decided to read it. I am a little over a third of the way through, and I have to say...most of the information seems pretty obvious.
The premise of the book is that lots of times, whether it is at work or with loved ones or friends or neighbors, people don't succeed in conversations that will likely change the quality of their lives. Instead, they avoid the conversations all together, or, in contrast, they turn the conversations into debates or battles, which then devolves into name-calling, insulting, and hurt, and completely gets away from the initial reason for the interaction.
The principles taught in Crucial Conversations overlap significantly with the principles of Politeness Theory, which essentially states that in every interaction we have with someone, there is the potential for both parties to lose or save face. Successful interactions happen when both parties act in the interest of both achieving their communication goals and saving the face for both themselves and the other person.
The bottom line is that if we show respect toward the other person or people, even if what we say may be disagreeable to them, we can still communicate effectively. Furthermore, when people understand that we have mutual purposes or common ground, then they are more likely to trust our motives for communicating with them.
So the equation looks something like this, I imagine:
Be nice + Be up front = Communication where 1) the person trusts you, and 2) furthering of both your goals and the other person's goals
While I can be as suspicious as the next person who's been crossed more than once, I do believe that people more often than not, are more guilty of unintentionally creating fasle impressions than they are of intentionally trying to make my life miserable. Translation: We often don't communicate very well.
As an editor, I love clear communication. When communication isn't clear, I seek clarification. Also, I'm somewhat deaf, which I'm sure adds to the number of times I've asked someone to repeat themselves. I guess what my rambling here is about, though, is that if we feel like we've been slighted, or that something seems off, or if we just don't understand something, it's much better to clarify the message and then the intent before we spend a lot of time and emotion being frustrated about an issue that may in fact not exist at all.
Anyhow, just some thoughts.