As someone who hates a misunderstanding, I practise a direct, clear and sometimes methodical approach to communication. This method has greatly reduced misunderstandings, awkwardness and confusion when it comes to conversing with others. Although, it has also on occasion resulted in enemies. How? A focus on being clear in ones words can sometimes mean it’s easy to forget that people are people. We humans like (and need) a bit of kindness, support and gentle conversation to make us feel comfortable. There are times for being direct and clear but it’s not always required.
Take for instance last weekend when the family and I went to a local festival to enjoy some music, good food and fun. I was lining up for Indian food behind a couple of other people and since the tummy was rumbling was quite keen to get some food into my belly! I asked the people standing there whether they were in the line to make sure I was in the right spot to which the answer was ‘yes’. “Good, I’ll stop and wait!” I thought.
The person two in front of me stepped forward and gave their order. Now I could be mistaken but I thought it was social etiquette to move forward in a line when the person in front of you moved forward. So hence I was quite surprised when the person in front of me didn’t move. She was a mile from the cash register and I thought ‘any minute someone’s going to move into that space and we’re not going to get our food before it runs out!’ You can tell I don’t have a lot of patience in these situations!
So in a direct and clear voice I said to the person in front of me, ‘Are you going next?” to which the young lady gave me an award winning death stare and didn’t move! “Woohoo!” I thought, “This is a grand display of direct and clear communication turning to plain rudeness.”
On reflection, I could have been a bit more gentle, kind and supportive in my words and tone to avoid offence. I didn’t mean to be so direct and clear but in my eagerness to get some food before it ran out and with the confusion of someone not following standard social protocol, I was a little anxious!
The death stare came my way again when she left with her naan. I know that she didn’t understand where I was coming from and she took what I said the wrong way. Lucky for me I likely won’t see her around again! But you never know, she could be my future neighbour, boss, client or customer which could cause me problems! Same thing could happen to you as a taxi driver or customer service operator. That person you’ve accidently offended could be your next big customer.
So, next time you want to avoid misunderstandings by being direct and clear, consider we humans need kindness, support and a gentle approach to make us feel comfortable in our world and with you as a person. The best way to get what we want and avoid any potential offense or rudeness is to try and use words that are direct and clear but with a tone that is softer, gentler and kinder. Try this simple tip for positive relationship building and happy, healthy customer relations.
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