A little-understood secret of good communication is understanding the emotional or situational context of your conversation.
When we are in a conversation we often want people to mirror our mood perfectly. I find that conflict often arises in conversations when others aren’t matching our mood – especially when their mood is not a positive one. We jump to conclusions about our conversation partner’s personality – “what a rude person” – rather than looking at the bigger context they bring to the conversation.
Here are three check-in points for a new conversation, so you can better understand your conversation partner’s mood:
- Where has your conversation partner just come from e.g work, their home, a hospital, a funeral, a party: When someone’s mood is vastly mismatched to their present situation (for example, they are at a party and look miserable), they may be experiencing energetic jetlag. They have arrived at the party, but their mind and emotions are still connected to a previous engagement. This can often happen when people come home from work and they are still thinking about office issues.
- Is something ‘big’ is happening with your conversation partner’s family, friends, home or occupation. For most people these four areas are the key pillars of life. If there are any big things going on in these areas such as loss of relationships, illness, new opportunities etc., most people find it tough to stay present in a conversation. This can be just a true for good and bad things – if a new baby is due soon, or if someone has just lost their job and are worried about finance.
- Have you hit a core value point of your conversation partner’s. Have you ever asked a person a question and received a disproportionate response? Often you are tapping into a point that is core to their identity such as; their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, lifestyle or beliefs . This can often happen when someone is making what they think is an innocent joke, but it causes great offense to the other person. Check in with your conversation partner to see if there is a back-story you are unaware of.
How often do you check the context behind someone else’s behaviour before you decide why they are behaving the way they are?