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How would you feel if your husband told you you were fat? Seriously, this was a question I was asked the other day.
One of the first things I ask clients is how something made them feel. Communication is a double edged sword, it takes both the talker and listener and divides between them the responsibility for what’s being said and what’s being heard.
As a talker, we deliver strings of words which commonly, but not always, make sentences and sense. Sometimes we plan what we are going to say, more often however we let our mouths motor on, sometimes wishing we could bite our tongues!
The listener might feel they have a less active role to play, after all they can’t make someone say what they want to hear and are therefore at the mercy of what might come out of someone’s mouth without much thought being put into it!
The missing link in the above roles is that both the talker and the listener are human beings, though that might have gone without saying! What needs to be remembered is that both have feelings. They’ve had different experiences. They might have been in similar situations before, and there may have been a consequence to a string of words. Unless you were there, it’s unlikely you will know what the consequence was, and it’s not really any of your business.
The key to understanding how important it is to bring the other person onto your radar and notice the effect either your listening, or your talking is having, lies in the story of the green dress.
Imagine returning from holiday with a suitcase full of dirty clothes. Now normally, I’m a fastidious dirty clothes sorter outer. You know what I mean, whites with white, dark with dark. However on Thursday last week, I seemed to lose the careful streak. This is the equivalent of motor mouth.
I did check what was going into the washing machine. I looked it all over and remember thinking, that’s fine, they’ve all been washed a gazillion times, it can all go in together. And off I went to write the weekly blog post for my own site – 7 Emotional mistakes which make you look a fool.
I’d just put the final full stop on the post when all the noise in the utility room died away,. Result! Multi-tasking is taking on perfect timing. Before I’d even opened the machine door, I could see that there was a rather attractive green material visible through the glass door. Strange I thought to myself, I’m sure I don’t own anything that colour. This is the equivalent of noticing the effect your talking is having on your listener/s.
My heart came up out of my chest and into my mouth. Oh my god, what had I done? What had I ruined? What will I do now? How can I apologise and make it right?
With trembling hands I pulled on the handle to open the door. Out tumbled dresses, sarongs, shorts, t-shirts, and the culprit. The green dress.
There was a fair amount of damage – one top had to be consigned to a new life as a duster. One has most definitely become a mint coloured polo instead of a white polo. But, and this is important, not everything changed colour. Only the things which were susceptible and able to soak up green dye.
This is the equivalent of understanding that your words will be heard as you intended by some, but not all. There are folk out there who will take umbridge, will feel hurt, and will react in a way you were not expecting.
The first thing I said to the wife who asked if her husband could say she was fat was
‘Did he actually say you were fat’?
‘No’ she replied, ‘He said I’d put on weight’. I then asked her if that was true, and she nodded her head.
The husband simply made real what the wife already knew. His words found the material susceptible to the green dye. If he’d been a tad more careful about how he shared his words, and sorted them out, he may still be sleeping in the same bed as his wife. She could take a look at bolstering her self esteem so that in the future, when she hears her truth, she’ll still have a husband in bed with her.
FREE TIP … Never wash a green dress with whites
Meantime, if anyone is looking to lose weight, get fit and eat more healthily, take a look at Mary Weaver’s latest post and fabulous programme.
Carefully yours ..