There’s a party game called “Pass It On”: one person whispers a phrase into the ear of someone who passes it on to the next, and so on. The last person in the chain says aloud the phrase they heard, and everyone laughs at how the meaning has changed. Part of the fun is tracing the changes in meaning through the chain: each person has passed on their interpretation of whatever was whispered into their ear; not the original phrase.
The same happens when we have a conversation. You come to me with something you’d like to share, I respond according to my interpretation of what you say, you come back with your interpretation of my response, and on it goes; meaning ping-ponging further away or closer to your initial topic. When we’re lucky, our interpretations open us to new understandings we would never have found alone: we achieve “synergy”. If we’re less lucky, growing mismatches block our ability to work together: we “just don’t understand each other”.
When we share an idea with someone else, the response we receive will depend upon how they’ve interpreted our initial topic. We have a choice in how we reply when responses we receive are not what we were expecting:
- Tell the person they don’t understand us and attempt to correct them, or
- Accept their feedback as the current reality and build from there.
Guess which choice leads to the more rewarding experience :).