Last week I complimented a friend on her ability to assess the mood of a group of people and adjust her presentation accordingly. She said “thanks, but you do that too.” Although her return compliment made me feel good, it downplayed the significant strength she demonstrated in her presentation. This conversational interchange reminded me once again that people have different conversational rituals that influence what they hear.
My friend’s response reminded me of two things I should have considered when phrasing my feedback to her. One, she is female and second, an Enneagram Type Six. So why can’t I just provide feedback honestly and directly without considering things like gender and personality? Feedback should always be honest and direct but must take into account that we all hear differently. What we hear comes through the filters that we have developed through our life experiences and the personality and gender with which we came into the world.
In general, conversational rituals of men often involve opposition such as teasing and playful put-downs. Men expend effort to avoid being put-down and put in a position “lower” than the other person. Women, on the other hand, use rituals that maintain an appearance of equality between people in the conversation and consideration of the feelings of the other person. Neither set of rituals is right or wrong, better or worse than the other. It is important in a conversation to recognize the ritual that is put forth rather than relying solely on the literal meaning of the words being said.
When my friend said, “you do that too” she was responding in such a way that equality would return between the two of us. Within her conversational ritual I had raised her to a different level with the compliment. She was unable to “hear” the compliment because she was in an uncomfortable position in the conversation.
If I had accounted for what I knew about her I would have phrased the feedback in a way that she would have heard without discomfort. I probably would have said something more like, “isn’t it great to be a woman with the ability to adjust your presentation to the mood of the audience? You did that especially well today.” This phrasing would fulfill her need to maintain a sense of equality between us and allow her to hear the feedback.
Do you hear what I hear? It is good to have a reminder that we all hear through our own filters. Consider your filter and that of the other person’s in your next conversation especially if it is not going as expected.
Don’t know your filters? Ask someone you trust or attend one of my Active Listening workshops. for immediate resources check out “10 Practices for Active Listening“Tags: communication, listening, personal development