We see the world through our own perceptions lens. These lenses embody what has made us over time: our beliefs, values, experiences, culture, education, etc. It is a reference frame specific to each of us that color what we live to give meaning to our choices and our actions.

Very often times, we think that others see thing in the same way than us, that data and facts are objectives. Now, it is undeniable that everyone interprets everything that it sees, feels and lives to shape its own reality.

The so-called Boring image hereunder translates very well the fact that two realities are simultaneously possible and can coexist at the same time (two women are displayed on this picture).

   Image de Boring

All is only a question of point of view: each and every viewpoint are acceptable.

So how to be in tune with others to create a shared reality?

We have to check what is under the language surface to align as much as possible our worldview with other’s one. The more we take this precaution, the more we will prevent interpretations from turning into disagreements and locking us into our rigidities.

 

• Communicate on one’s communication to validate interpretations

A good communication is not just about sending a message. One must be understood to consider that the message is well received. It is also necessary to metacommunicate (specify to the receiver how this message has to be understood) and even to “overcommunicate” (check how the message has been understood).

Beyond words, we have to pay attention to the way we communicate. By clarifying the verbal language (“what do you mean by…?”) or non-verbal (“why do you sigh?”) during the discussions with one interlocutor, we can impact the way the content of the message will be understood.

It is thus really important to adjust its manner to communicate, to speak to the other one by reformulating, explaining, questioning, etc. to defuse the seeds of a potential disagreement due to misunderstandings or unspoken ones.

 

• Share each other’s representations to widen one’s perception field

When working with a group, metacommunication is not enough alone to deal with operational issues for example. It is necessary that discussions be also structured within a process that offers a real space of speech and listening to everyone.

Sharing representations is an essential process to structure discussions around the table. It embodies three steps: a time for “individual thinking” where each participant writes his answers to the questions asked, a time for “sharing” where each of them says out loud its answers in turn while others listen without debating, and a time for “creation” to elaborate common solutions.

By dedicating a precious time to actively listen without debating that a real and deep understanding of our respective worldviews; and this is a major prerequisite to work out on a common solution.

 

Conclusion

Numerous disagreements or issues come from non-verified interpretations. What matters above all is that the message receiver has correctly understood. Indeed, the way he decodes the message will influence his reaction and behaviors. It is therefore important to watch how we interact to better understand each other.

Magali Genieys
© 2018 Alcheemiz

(To go further: “Coaching for meaning: The culture and practice of coaching and team building” by Vincent Lenhardt, Palgrave Macmillan editions)

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