“But that isn’t what I meant!”
How often have you said this to a colleague, employee or spouse?
Language is very flexible, and often that’s a good thing. Except when it isn’t. I’ve been training my dog to get her ready for competitive agility, and I’ve learned a lot about clear communication. Think about it. When you tell your dog to “sit,” do you both agree what that means? To you, it probably refers to the action of planting butt on the ground. But the dog might think it means “position myself in front of owner, looking up and plant butt.” It might not matter that you don’t have exactly the same idea. But if you need to handle your dog at a distance, that misunderstanding might cause a lot of frustration.
Obviously the same thing happens with person to person communication. You tell your kid to “pick up his room.” You have an image of what that means and a time frame in which you want it done. I guarantee your child has a very different image.
What I’m learning with my dog is to be very clear in my own mind what a command means before I give it. You can do the same in your communications. Oh, I’m not talking about casual conversation. There’s lots of room for misunderstanding there, and generally it’s easily fixed. But for the important messages, try thinking them through first.
Then try it out on yourself. Think about it for a moment. If you heard someone else say it, how would you take it? Does that match your expectation? If so, great. Off to it! If not, rework it.
Then when you actually say it, check for understanding. Perhaps have the other person repeat it back to you. Then make sure your expectations are met. If not, don’t automatically assume the other person “got it wrong.” Maybe you didn’t say it clearly enough.
It’s making a difference with my dog. She’ll sit in front of me, to my side or even across the room (most of the time). I’m less frustrated and so is she.
Imagine how much better your relationships will be if everyone understands.
Anyone have any communication stories to share? Or dog training tips? 🙂