Who Has the Right Answer? Of Course It’s YOU!
It felt like a Diane Keaton or Meg Ryan movie. Maybe Jane Fonda? The siblings flock home around a parent in crisis, with all the parallels you can imagine in terms of the adult child “archetypes” that show up in the movies. There’s “the doctor” sister (she’s an OT), the “intuitive sister” who connects everything to her personal experience and the “businesswoman” (that’s me).
For the past week we have driven each other crazy, each likely thinking “I’m the daughter who knows what to do!” “No, I’M the daughter who is on top of it!” But with each of our styles and bank of wisdom, we’ve come together to help one 86-year-old mother with a broken leg find the road to recovery.
The What, How and Delivery Method of Communication
The challenge I faced this past week navigating the crisis with my sisters is the same one we face all the time in our everyday interactions in our businesses and life projects. Coming to solutions, gleaning meaning and working with others is not just about the content. “What we communicate” (the actual words) is mitigated by “how we communicate” (our personal style or how the words come out of our mouth). And a third critical component is “what mode of communication” we prefer.
On the “how” we communicate, what I found with my sisters is that we were often communicating the exact same thing and then getting mad at each other for not understanding or not feeling heard. We all saw the same interactions yet came to different conclusions. Or, I would come to a solution in my mind, and assume everyone else knew and was on the same page with me. And then (guilty as charged!) I would stop listening after I came to a solution, not recognizing that others needed more time.
Then there were divergent preferences around the “mode” of communication. There were long text chains, overlapping emails, lack of clarity over minute-by-minute updates and status changes and confusion over who was on which distribution list. And that was just with the three of us.
The Lesson for Next Time and Every Time
It’s human nature, literally, to assume our reality is the same reality for everyone else, and to assume that our own style and approach is the best way. I mean, that’s why we do it that way, right? But is that really true? Diversity, equity and inclusion tells us that everyone brings their own experience to the table, and that a combination of different approaches can yield the best results.
To be effective, it’s more about being able to recognize our own style and preferences and that of others. And, no matter how right we think we are, the power is in adapting our own style and preferences to accommodate that of others. (Did I mention we do that, even if we think we are right?)
Speaking for myself, in the case with my sisters, I could be more effective with them by being more transparent in communicating what’s going on in my brain. That might look like a daily check-in and summary of what we’ve learned from doctors, caretakers and the patient, and what that means in terms of next steps.
And…and this is a hard one, if a majority of sisters prefer one mode of communication over another, the onus is on me to adapt if we want the best outcomes. In layperson’s terms that means even though I hate texting for long conversations, it would behoove me to actually read their texts. That is the written/digital version of “listening.”
What would that look like for you?
How do you manage your own style and adapt for others? For me, I often find myself in “here’s what I learned so I can do it better next time” mode. But isn’t that life? How do you manage this in your own life?