Listening to Radio 4 this morning I heard there was a new cure for a serious disease: gin therapy.
‘Really?’ I thought, ‘That can’t be right’
I thought about it a bit more: ‘It must have been ‘gym therapy’ – ooh, dear, I don’t fancy the sound of that’.
Turns out it was ‘gene therapy’!
How easy it is to get the wrong end of the stick when it’s first thing in the morning and you’re not really listening.
So often there is a huge gulf in our communication: big gaps between ‘what I said woz…’, ‘what I meant woz..’ and ‘what you heard woz…’
Yesterday someone reminded me about the dangers of assumptions: ‘if you assume, you make and ass out of u and me’.
So here are two great phrases which both have huge paybacks in terms of smoother conversations: next time you come across something unexpected that displeases you, maybe something some one promised to do and hasn’t got round to (a pile of unwashed pots in the sink, an untidy child’s bedroom, a dismantled bike in the living room) bite your lip and hold back on the ‘Why’ tirade that is so tempting. Here’s your first alternative phrase: “I’m puzzled”.
“I’m puzzled as to the fact that dishes are in the sink when person x was asked to wash them up”
“I’m puzzled why your bedroom is untidy… your bike is in bits… etc. It’s so much less threatening, accusing, so much less critical. It also comes with another hugely beneficial saying on the side: ‘could you help me understand why…?‘
These two phrases are in fact so useful for so many potentially difficult conversations I think it might be worth having a T shirt printed up with ‘I’m puzzled’ on the front and ‘Could you help me understand why?’ on the back. (There’s a marketing opportunity here I think?) Pete Scazzero, who I have been reading a lot of lately put up on his page today: ‘If a conversation starts with criticism, there is only a 4% chance it will end well’. I don’t know why a percentage figure is needed to lend weight to that statement (or how they work that out) but I think it’s true anyway.
It’s a lesson I’ve wasted most of my life without learning – it’s easy to see something wrong but much harder to look at it from a different angle and understand why.