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“Wait, stop! It’s not what you think! Let me explain!”

We’ve heard this ridiculous dialogue in movies and shows too many times. The girl catches a guy in what looks like an adulterous state. The boss happens to see an employee doing something seemingly shocking. Someone walks out and the other person runs after them saying that stereotypically unrealistic line, when they could’ve just easily blurted out what’s really happening in the same breath. Then, it leads to greater conflict in the story.

This is not how it works in real life. But, similarly in real life, most of our misunderstandings lead to greater conflict because we waste time and energy not communicating.

Confusion to conflict

Here’s an interesting case that’s been recently shared with me.

Jude took a break from work after a disagreement with his boss. Whether the break is temporary or permanent, we need to wait and see.

He has been working as a manager in the company for four months. He hit the ground running and was able to work well with the management and other employees.

Then, he encountered management decisions with which he disagreed but needed to implement. The decision-making process and frame of mind of his boss also started to confuse him.

On the other hand, the boss noticed changes in Jude’s performance and behavior. She was aware that he disagreed with some of her management decisions. As a result, the implementation was chaotic, which exasperated her.

Lack of communication fanned the embers of confusion, which resulted in a flaming conflict between the two.

Taking time to cool off and think about their disagreement might help. But a more important part of conflict resolution is communication.

Jude needs to communicate with his boss why he fails to agree with some of her decisions. Maybe a different perspective or opinion can even lead to improvements in the organization. It is also important for him to express his difficulties in understanding and adjusting to the process of his boss. 

On the other hand, the boss needs to communicate with Jude the foundations of her decisions. Of course, her judgment is the rule of law in the company, especially since it’s her business. But it helps if employees understand where you’re coming from, especially the managers.

The Telephone Game

This game has different names depending on the country—Chinese Whispers, Russian Scandal, Pass the Message, and many more.

A message is passed from one person to the next until it reaches the end of the line. The point is to transmit the message without errors. Although, the fun of the game lies in the message becoming distorted in the end.

Oftentimes, it’s like we are playing this game. We don’t go straight to the person at the end of the line—the person with whom we’re supposed to directly communicate. What we often do is pass the message or course it through someone else. As a result, the message might no longer be accurate.

In the case of Jude and others in the same situation, instead of going straight to their boss, they talk to their boss’s secretary. In some marriages, instead of the husband or wife directly communicating with their spouse, they use in-laws as messengers. In some situations, friends ask other friends to make their case.

Why do we do this? The common answers are fear, self-consciousness, and pride.

Fear — What if she gets angry?

Self-consciousness — It’s too embarrassing for me to open the topic.

Pride — I don’t need to tell him these things. He should know them already.

Snap back to reality!

We may be the main character in our life story. But this isn’t a movie. There is no need for a dramatic moment that prevents you from explaining yourself.

We are not mind readers. We can’t assume and automatically expect other people to understand us. If we want and need to be understood, we should also want and need to communicate.

Imagine what percentage of your day-to-day problems can be solved if you don’t hesitate to communicate. Maybe even more than half! 

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