In Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, author Frank Luntz says:
“You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices and preexisting beliefs. It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant.
The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.”
Have you ever had someone say to you, “I don’t understand why you’re so upset? I didn’t say anything wrong.”
If you’re familiar with such dialogue, or anything remotely close, you’re most definitely in the presence of someone with little to no empathy, which is the capacity to understand what another person may be feeling or experiencing.
There’s such power in what you say and how you say it. But oftentimes it’s lost on those less-than empathetic individuals who see nothing wrong with their delivery. They see no reason why their message should be perceived any other way than how it was intended.
The more I journey, the more I realize the incredible number of people in our society, from all walks of life, who are socially and emotionally inept.
They go about their days believing that what they say should be sufficient, and believe it is when perceived in their own minds. But those with a lack of empathy often fail to truly hear the message their conveying. Fail to recognize how what you say can negatively impact “what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart”.
Famed writer Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
From the places we work, to the places we learn to the spaces we call home. Understand that what you say is more about the receiver’s perception, not your intention.
Next time you have something on your mind, before you utter a single word, stop yourself and ask, “how would this make someone feel?”