What Dominates in a Conflicting Messages Conflict?
Remember from Grade School: “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and says its own name.” (It isn’t always true – nothing is.) Conflicting messages are like that. I’ve been wondering about when two opposing messages go walking together, which one does the talking. Which one is louder and that people pay more attention to? Because it seems to me that it is not equal, just like with the vowels. Somebody always has ego. As well, should we be listening to one over the other?
What are conflicting messages?
There are many types of messages and they can be congruent or contradictory.
Word/Action: Words give us one message but the actions seem to give another one.
Word/Tone: The words say one thing but the tone sends an entirely different message.
Body language/Word: Again, the words say one thing and the body language conflicts.
Words/Emotions: Can seem like two different narratives entirely!
When any combination of these is in contradiction, it can be crazy making. You are being emphatically told one thing and then experience a totally different reality. The words part seems to me to be the mind-logic part and then the tone, body language and emotion part are things we experience more. We get this type of information as more of a feelings message. Both are valuable. My experience is that we tend to discount the experienced aspect both with ourselves and with others.
For instance: “I told you I’d do it.” This reinforces the words and yet, clearly whatever it was hasn’t be done. The actions (or lack of) don’t support the words. Yet, people keep pointing towards their words as though that proves something, which does nothing when working with conflicting messages.
Mission, Vision, Values
I remember years ago hearing people talk very definitively about the Mission, Vision and Values of the organization where I worked. I then saw so many examples that contradicted those statements but everybody else seemed convinced we were “living the mission”. Maybe I had a negative viewpoint and I was seeing things wrong? Likely, as with most things, it was a “both/and” not an “either/or” but it made me feel I was the only one having this out of body experience of living in a different reality.
Sending Conflicting Messages Accidentally
I’ve been puzzled by several circumstances in my own life where I’ve brought words and emotion in at the same time. There are cases where I haven’t understood why my words don’t seem to have landed, but the impact of my emotions have. This is because I have communicated a conflicting message unintentionally. This is what interests me the most right now as I believe we all need to be more skillful at navigating our own emotions and those of others. To not have my words taken as important had me feel negated and to have only my emotional aspects stressed had me feel I was viewed as fragile. Neither was the full story – both had some truth.
What I find fascinating is that in these cases of mine, the fact that I was “emotional” appeared to completely wipe out the word message I was also delivering. In these cases, the emotion spoke its own name so loudly that words weren’t taken into account, creating conflicting messages. I’m sure the opposite can also hold true.
The conclusion I am left with is that we need to be mindful about all aspects of communication and give them all attention. When they are congruent, great. When they are not, why aren’t they? This becomes a place for curiosity and questioning which would work way better than deciding that one holds the truth. I can think of so many examples that support this. We can accurately interpret body language, and then sometimes we misinterpret it! Tone can be read into a message where it wasn’t intended or we can totally hear the anger, disdain, dismissiveness in tone. We can mistake tears for sadness when they are tears of anger and therefore mistake the word message that goes along with it. Conflicting messages abound!
I’m still in exploration around this topic and holding it with great curiosity as I navigate in my world. I’d love to hear what other people think about this.
Rosalie Boulter – Paradigm Shifters, Aug 2018
Rosalie Boulter is an introverted, deep thinker who is also a Coach, trainer, mentor as well as being a yogi. If you want to get together for a glass of wine and delve deeply into the mystery of human interactions and laugh about them, you know who to call. Check out her upcoming event taking place in October 2018 here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/conflict-transformation-tickets-47489029967