Am I Trapped in it?

by | May 31, 2024 | Real Life

Ellen Patnaude, Patnaude Coaching

I’ve recently been caught up in a very difficult situation. I didn’t ask for this situation. I didn’t provoke it or invite it. But the situation has presented itself and I’ve chosen to help the person at the center of it asking for my help. As a result, I’ve been involved in some very difficult and unpleasant conversations. One happened just days ago. It’s caused me to reflect on confirmation bias and ask myself, “Am I trapped in it?”

What is “it?”

Confirmation bias means that we are more likely to accept information if it supports what we already believe. So, in a conversation with someone else when tensions are high and you already feel you’ve been wronged repeatedly over years by the person doing the talking, you’re probably only listening for what you want to hear. And if you’re listening for what you already believe to be true, you’re not really listening. 

What’s probably obvious to most of us is that we should be thoughtful about how our words come across before we say them. “Think before you speak” and all that jazz. And yes, that’s part of it. But that’s not all of it. There are two other parts, in my humble opinion, that matter even more than carefully choosing your words.

Less obvious solutions

The first is to invite discussion. I know I don’t communicate perfectly all the time. Ask anyone who talks to me regularly. But what I do try to consistently do is to invite questions, concerns, and engagement. Don’t like the way I said something? Don’t understand what I’m getting at? Ask me. Let’s talk about it. If we stay engaged with one another, I’m confident we’ll eventually figure it out.

The second is simply the flip side of that coin. If you’re on the receiving end of communication that isn’t clear, offends you, or you’re not sure what the intention was, say so. Instead of assuming the worst about what the other person meant, ask. Invite further explanation. Give them a chance to try and say it a different way. Give grace.

Bottom line?

It’s not complicated. However, having been recently caught in these difficult and unpleasant conversations myself, I also know it ain’t easy. If you’re going into a sticky conversation with someone, take 10 seconds to breathe first. Ask questions. Invite questions. And for the love of communication, quit looking for confirmation of what you already think you know. Otherwise, why are we talking? Just send me a nasty email or text to speak your mind and move along. 

I’d love to hear your experiences with this. Please tell me I’m not alone.

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen E. Patnaude has been coaching, training, and developing people to achieve higher levels of success in a professional capacity since 1997.

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