Last year my gift to myself was to engage a career and life coach. In one of the sessions, we focused on a topic that I have constantly spoken of and kept an eye on. While we think the more we explain ourselves, the better people understand us, there’s a very thin line between over explaining, being apologetic and getting people to see our point of view.
I once read that as women, because our personality revolves around being generous with our time and energy, we want everyone to walk our journey with us. In the same way, we do not want to say anything that can be misconstrued or leave people wondering about the essence of our communication. This, then, pushes us to over communicate which is even more destructive than communicating too little. On the other end, most men communicate with brevity and assume that whoever leave behind will catch up.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point. We receive an email or text message from a friend. Despite the fact that it’s ten or less words long, we read about ten pages into the nuances that we are sure are underlying it. We over analyse what the other person could have meant, the subtext, potential but nonexistent emotional undercurrents. And this unfortunately, does not change within the work environment. As a result we go along life with all this communication ‘she/he said this but they could have meant that’ baggage that drags us down and keep us from focusing on the more important things.
My coach pointed out that for clarity of communication we need a two pronged approach. The first is to be comfortable with silence. Say you ask for a raise at work. Your boss is quiet so you feel the need to fill that silence with apologies or ramble along about your reasons and start the whole cycle of self-doubt and beating yourself up. Get used to making a request and then staying quiet until you’re asked a direct question. The second is to not make up stories about communication directed at us. If someone says they cannot meet, resist the urge to decipher it as they do not like us or some other similar thing.