As well as missing out ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at great cost to ourselves and others, we can fall into familiar ways of interpreting what others say when we ask for support.
Some of us habitually interpret a yes from someone else as if it were no – leading to endless checking and rechecking, micro-managing and over-supervising, or just doing it ourselves. It erodes trust and soon leads to the people who might have once said a genuine yes holding back.
Others habitually take no to mean yes – forcing or cajoling those around us into begrudgingly or resentfully doing what we’ve asked. This also undoes trust, undermining commitment and the genuine willingness to be of assistance.
We make the same mistake with counter-offers, assuming when the other person offers to do something a little different from what we’ve asked that they mean either no, or that their objections are petty and to be ignored.
This is important because when requests, and their responses, are handled with genuineness and attention it’s possible to build deep bonds of understanding, fluid, generous support – vital in any relationship, family, or team. And when we wilfully misunderstand what is being said we quickly undo all of this.
The antidote to our habitual misunderstanding? Learning to listen to what the other person is actually saying rather than to the familiarity of our own inner story.