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Finessing How You Communicate (Part 7)

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(…continued from last week)

Nervous laughter, when someone is anxious is an incongruity, because anxiety and laughing don’t match. Laughing when something funny happens is a match, looking tense when feeling anxious is a match, smiling and chuckling while feeling anxious does not match.

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Think of your own incongruencies between your inner and outer self. Have you ever thanked someone for a gift you thought was the ugliest thing you’d ever seen? Do you recall agreeing to do something your Aunt Frieda wanted or your boss really wanted to do when you wanted to say “No”? Have you experienced wanting to set someone straight but you didn’t because you thought you might hurt the other persons feelings? These types of situations create internal incongruencies. It’s the feeling of being divided. Part of you thinks it’s a good idea, part of you doesn’t, part of you says, “Yes do it,” part of you is anxious or hesitant.

Congruence/Incongruence

The upset or irritated feelings are a signal you don’t have congruence or alignment between your beliefs, values, thoughts, behavior or words. Inner incongruencies do show up in your verbal and non verbal behavior most of the time.

If people are good observers or know you well, they often notice your inner conflict. Sometimes they blow it off, other times they’ll say, “What’s wrong?” or, “Is everything all right?” The appropriate response to those questions isn’t, “Everything is fine!,” if it isn’t fine.

If they notice the incongruence and bring it up, you need to be honest enough to manage it, to talk about it, to deal with it. Don’t be one of those non-communicators who always say everything is fine.

Recall when someone who is close to you was describing a really great time, think of the expression on their face and the eye contact. Think of the animated gestures, the intensity of the voice, the words they were using. Was there alignment between the words and the physiology? I would bet.

That person was congruently giving you the same ‘yes’ signals both in their speech and behavior. This experience is where the inner and outer selves have a match. It was positive; it was a self rewarding experience.

When you thanked a friend for helping you with a project you couldn’t have done by yourself, did you richly acknowledging them? You bet you did. If you truly meant what you said they probably experienced your sincere appreciation because your words, voice tone, eye contact, and physical behaviors all matched up. When you have alignment in words and actions, it feels right to you and physically it shows congruence to those people observing you.

Suppose you are about to do something you really enjoy, you ask your friend to go with you and they reply, “Oh that would be fun…”. When the voice is soft and passive, and the tone is a droopy down intonation, if they also happen to be glancing away and fidgeting a bit as you are discussing it, do the words and the nonverbals match? No they don’t. They may go, and they may or may not be a wet blanket on the fun you anticipate having.

Imagine discussing a project with a coworker, you suggest an approach and they respond, “Good idea….” but you noticed that they have very little enthusiasm, they are kind of shaking their head no as they make that, “Good idea” statement. Do you think they really are buying in when you see them shaking their head looking down with a little frown on their face? There is a mismatch.

The issue is that this person who is giving you this mixed message is giving you “go” and “no go” signals both. There may be a part of them that wants to go play tennis with you while another part is thinking they need to go get cleaned up afterwards, they have an event later in the day, so do they really want to go through the trouble? You have to pay attention to the whole message.

When you pull some of the cues you’re receiving out of context, conflict is bound to follow. The tennis game won’t be much fun or very productive if your tennis partner doesn’t resolve this incongruence of what they have to do later, having to shower again, being in a hurry. If they resolve that everything can be fine and you can have a great time.

(to be continued…)


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