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Emotions in communication

I was on the school drop off this morning when I noticed two boys, aged about 10/11 having a discussion around a book. I will make up their names and will call them Jack and Mark.

Jack appeared quite frustrated and was saying; “I haven't got the book, you can come round to my house, I don't have it”. His body language was tense and his tone high pitched, not aggressive and he appeared to be struggling to get his point across.

Mark appeared quite relaxed and said; “ I know you have it, it cost me actual money.” I noticed he didn't look Jack in the eye and carried on his conversation with another boy immediately after.

Jack replied; “stop being so childish, I don’t have it”, and walked quickly away. I watched him as he then went and spoke to some other boys about the situation and could see him telling them he didn't have the book.

I watched as Mark turned around and watched Jack, he seemed aware Jack was continuing the conversation.

Jack then walked quickly back towards Mark and said in a louder voice, loud enough for a couple of adults to turn round; “ I really don't have your book, check my bag”. With this he threw his bag into the floor in frustration. “Why do you have to tell the teacher, I don’t have it, I think you left it in the book shelf or perhaps you can check to see if she has it first”.

Mark replied; “I know you have the book” and walked off.

Fascinating from a communication point of view. What I was witnessing was a classic example of emotional listening driven by values and beliefs. Mark was convinced he was right so was listening from his “I am right” point of view, he probably didn't even hear Jack’s explanation. I don't know Mark or his beliefs and am guessing the fact he mentioned he had paid for the book was important to him and this will be a strong motivator for getting the book back. Without speaking to him everything else would be an assumption.

Jack seems to feel he was being treated unfairly, he became frustrated because he couldn't get Mark to see things from his point of view and the more emotional he became the harder it was to use convincing language and he kept repeating the same thing and his behaviour changed.

Why do I mention this here. This was a classic example of emotionally driven conversation. Does it change as we grow up - does it heck :-).

When we have emotions driving what we are saying or when we believe we are right it affects our ability to construct what we want to say and also how we listen.

A survey last week showed most couples argue 6 times a month and the biggest factor was one party not listening to the other.

Think about a time recently in your life when you were emotionally driven and it impacted on the conversation you were having. Or be really honest with yourself and think about a time when you believed you were right and this affected how you listened to the other person.

Controlling emotions is hard, even if you’re aware it’s happening. Sometimes it might be best to walk away and start again when you’ve had a few minutes or a couple of hours :-), to become more rational. Better that than saying words you don't really mean and because you're angry or frustrated you say them anyway. I am sure you can think of some times when this has happened and the consequences that come with this.

Perhaps we should teach kids how to listen and really understand other peoples values and beliefs. We tell them to listen but do we actually teach them how to listen and what to listen for?

We tell them about the polite “learnt” way to have a conversation, you know ask questions, appear interested but I am just not sure any of us, unless we study or go on training courses, leave school knowing and understanding the difference really good listening can make to other people and our own lives.

Please like, share if you have found this useful. Comment and generate some discussion, I believe this is such an overlooked skill and one which can be rectified with greater self awareness and understanding.

The Communication Coach

Riseley, Bedford MK44, UK

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