A recent conversation centered around miscommunication – when we say something with good intent, however, the listener gets offended. Have you experienced it? It has certainly happened to me.

Typically, this is how we respond on discovering that we offended someone –

Oh, no, no! That is not what I meant! I was saying…… I did not mean to hurt!

We make a sincere effort to clarify our intent and to convince the other person that we are good people. Usually, it works, but sometimes, we find that the listener is not convinced and continues to feel bad. And now we say – Hey, you are making too much out of this! Let it go!

What did we do here? We tried to explain our position, and when it did not work, we put the onus of smoothening the situation back on the person we had hurt! Possibly, we sulked a bit too after this!

What could be different about this?

-We can find out

  • The impact of what we said on the listener
    • What should we have said instead?
    • Was our tone the problem?

Asking these questions from the listener shows that we genuinely care.

-We can be aware of our cultural lens and the assumptions that come with it. We think of culture as a homogenous factor across a community or state or nation, but every family has a culture. We learn what is acceptable, how to express, how to convey respect etc., in our own setting and form our worldview.

– Be open and curious about the world views of others.

– Knowing our own blind spots and unconscious biases, the traps we commonly fall into, maybe conformity bias, achievement, affinity, or any other?

This is a journey. We can make progress with mindfulness. Rather than trying to be perfect, be kind, and compassionate, and realize that in our efforts to connect, we will make mistakes. Let us not withdraw because our sense of self is hurt or because we are embarrassed. Every mistake is an opportunity to lean in, be curious to learn other perspectives, and show that we care to understand and be understood.