Today I want to share with you a little trick from NLP to stop yourself from being misunderstood.
So often, arguments happen in relationships with our loved ones or in business that can really create problems and drama where there really doesn’t really need to be. Oftentimes it comes down to a couple of small unconscious communication styles that we can very easily overlook… and like we’re talking on different radio frequencies, when it doesn’t need to be like that.
And so, first of all is understanding these two different styles.
When you understand these two different styles then you can match your communication to the other person and meet them where they’re at, talk to them in a way that they need to hear it, so that they can get the understanding and act accordingly.
When someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying and you’re kind of coming in like this and they’re listening down here then you can fly past each other. And that’s when arguments happen, misunderstandings can happen and conflicts can happen; people can feel unheard, unloved, uncared for, when often it’s just a simple mistake of communication styles.
It’s like a continuum, a spectrum, and we each can be either one or the other.
The first communication style is literal – where we say literally and specifically what we mean. This is “Please get me a glass of water.” That is a literal request. Please get me a glass of water is a very literal request.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, an inferential request would be someone going, “Oh, I’m so thirsty, it’s such a hot day. I’m so thirsty.” That’s an inferential request. That’s actually a comment about how you’re feeling but not a specific instruction or command.
This happens a lot in marriages where a husband, a man, or one partner might listen literally – and so they respond to specific, clear tangible, instructions and don’t understand references, hints, implications, subtle cues. It’s like it goes over their heads.
Oftentimes as well, women are taught to speak inferentially, to not actually ask clearly for what they want.
A lot of times girls are taught from a young age (it’s happening less now but especially back 10-20 years ago) that it was rude to ask for specific what you want. And so women were often taught to be good girls and nice girls and then hint and give clues as to what they wanted but never specifically outright ask for what they wanted.
A lot of times girls are taught from a young age that it’s rude to ask for specific what you want.
This creates a lot of miscommunication in marriages and relationships where one partner will be giving clues and hints and implications like “Oh, it would be so nice if we went on a holiday” or, “Oh, really need to relax.” And the other partner is listening literally and going, “Why do you keep talking about this? What do you want?” They don’t understand, they don’t hear the hidden request.
Someone that listens inferentially can hear that request and read between the lines of that person talking about their state and go, “Oooh, they must mean that they want to go on a holiday, so I’d better book them a holiday.”
Someone that listens inferentially can read between the lines of the subtle keys that someone is saying and can make assumptions about what they think that they mean and then go and do them.
A lot of times as well, people can get into trouble where they’re very caring and very giving to other people (this again happens a lot with women, especially carers and mothers) that they’re used to inferring maybe what their children need. And so they’re kind of getting you a glass of water like the perfect waiter, getting you a glass of water before you’re even thirsty, and assuming and understanding what you want before you even need it.
What happens with these types of people that speak inferentially and listen inferentially is that when they’re partnered up or are communicating with someone that is a literal listener or a literal talker, they will hear that literal talker as being very rude and kind of over the top and too forceful.
An inferential listener will hear a literal speaker and go, “Ugh, why are they being so harsh? Why are they being so specific about this? I already knew what they wanted.” They can also get upset because they speak inferentially – and if someone else is listening literally, they don’t understand what they’re saying.
And so, an inferential speaker can be giving clues and hints and thinking that they’re saying what they mean, but someone that’s listening literally does not understand at all. So they’re not even hearing it. And then the person doesn’t feel heard, doesn’t feel cared for, because the person that’s listening just doesn’t understand what they’re saying.
My challenge to you listening to this is reflect on where you speak literally and where you speak inferentially. Where do you hint, imply, and give clues? And where do you specific, clear, tangible instructions?
There will be times where in different context you might use different communication styles.
Because there will be times where in different context you might use different communication styles. Maybe when you’re talking to your children you might be more specific and literal, and then with your boss or with your partner or with your mother in law you might be more inferential.
So notice how you speak and if you’re speaking literally or if you’re speaking inferentially – if you’re hinting, implying, and giving clues but not actually saying what you specifically want.
Also notice how the other person that you’re communicating with is speaking. Because the meaning of communication is the response that you get. So if at any point you feel like you’re being misunderstood or there’s drama or miscommunication happening, reflect back to this lesson and just ask yourself, “Hmmm, am I speaking literally or inferentially? And is the other person speaking literally or inferentially?”
Because if they’re inferring something, you can say, “You can just tell me specifically… Please tell me specifically what you want,” and you can ask that specific instruction. And when you get that clear instruction then you’ll know what to do or you can clarify with the person, “I think you might mean this. Is that right?”
So then you can use your communication to clarify what’s going on and create more clear communication and harmony.
Just notice that in yourself.
And in what context do I speak literally or inferentially?
And then just notice it in your partner as well.
Does your partner, your life partner, your business partner, your best friend… do they speak literally or inferentially?
And where could you stretch your communication style to be able to use the opposite style?
Some people feel very comfortable being literal and won’t feel comfortable being inferential. Some people will be the opposite – very comfortable inferring things but not very comfortable being literal.
See if you can stretch your communication style and try out the other way of communicating. I hope that’s helped!
I have an NLP training coming up soon, so if you’d like to learn more tips and strategies like this to learn how to communicate better with your friends, colleagues and family, then apply for a no obligation call with us today and I can get you the details of the upcoming trainings and see if it’s a fit for you.
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