Lately I’ve been wondering how I could possibly have made it to the ripe old age of 52 without, apparently, the slightest idea of how to communicate with others. Several incidents have arisen recently that have left me wondering how the communication could have broken down so completely. Nothing big or life shattering, just small incidents where I’m left shaking my head and thinking, “Really, that’s what you got out of that interaction!” and wondering how two reasonably intelligent people could end up at two completely different places based on the same information.
According to Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, “Every brain processes language in a different way, and this results in a communication style that is unique to each individual. Thus every conversation has the potential to unfold in a creative and original way … Different people continue to apply different meanings to the same words…”
This was a huge revelation to me, “Every brain processes language in a different way”. I always assumed that some things were a given to every brain – like one plus one for example. However, Dr. Ellen Langer (www.ellenlanger.com), a social psychologist, tells of a student who adds one and one and gets one. This is a perfect example of where the teacher could shake their head and think, “Really, that’s what you got out of that question!” and do their best to show the student that if you have one apple in a basket and you add one more apple, you now have two apples in the basket. Pretty basic stuff – could even be labeled a universal truth.
Dr. Langer points out that the teacher could “just say “Wrong,” or he can try to figure out how the person got to one.” When asked how they got to one, the student responds, “If you add one wad of chewing gum to another wad, one plus one equals one.” True! My brain hadn’t thought of it that way. My brain thought that one plus one always equals two.
Sometimes the things we take for granted as universal truths are not necessarily so – like one plus one always equals two. This revelation is helping me move from “Really, that’s what you got out of that interaction!” to “Wow, that’s interesting; I wonder what I am missing here?” and opening up the dialogue rather than shutting it down by getting caught in right and wrong.
Lisa Ivaldi is a Writer and Virtual Assistant in Guelph, ON. Click here to download a free copy of her Wake Up to What You Love workbook.