• Kat O'Sullivan

Clarity run amuck!

Updated: May 6, 2020

How many times have you thought you were crystal clear about something and then, oops!!!

If you think you are alone in this, take heart. Even the best communicators can find themselves scratching their heads when things go sideways, despite how clear they thought they were. And they probably were clear, at least from their perspective.

So why is it that despite our clarity, we are often misunderstood? Enter our brain. It is an unparalleled storage device. Every bit of information we take in, everything we experience is filed away for future reference. And, all of that shapes who we are and how we see the world, unless we consciously challenge it. If not, it automatically informs what we believe, our values, our assumptions, and the way we interpret things, i.e. our perspective on just about everything.

It should come as no surprise that we all tend to think that our perspective is the Truth (with a capital T), when it’s actually our truth (with a small T). Why is that? Our brain comes with an amazing filtration system – by default. We are predisposed to filter everything else against what we already “know,” unconsciously. Therein the “Oops!” when things don’t match our expectations.

Reality check . . . we all have a unique perspective that is valid and valuable. However, all too often when we hear a perspective that doesn’t match our own, our natural tendency is to judge it. Keyword is “judge.” Enter the opportunity to become insatiably curious about the other person’s perspective. We don’t have to agree with it or become disagreeable. Instead, when we become curious it not only honors and respects the other person, it helps us gain valuable insight into what else might be possible, or at least to gain a deeper understanding of their expectations. This can be very helpful when trying to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.

Here’s a real-world example that may seem unlikely. Yet, it’s true. Really! Back in the day when I was focused on my dream of reinventing public education, I designed a project-based learning model to help students be prepared to apply their know-how in the real world (that’s another story for another day). During parent orientation, I thought I did an amazing job of demonstrating what this highly engaging, hands-on learning environment would look like. Fast forward. A few weeks into the school year, a father came into my office outraged. When I asked in what way his expectations weren’t being met, his response was (for real), “I thought you said this school was going to be hands-on and I meant “hand-on.” At which point he demonstrated that we should literally be hands-on, as in corporal punishment. While this seems absurd (at least to me and most of the world) it’s how he heard things, as in his brain translated it into what he wanted to hear. Obviously, this wasn’t in the cards. That being said, in his world that’s what hands-on meant to him and nothing I said or did during orientation over-rode his definition. Ugh!

Without focusing and getting to clarity you cannot lead. You cannot motivate. You cannot plan. You cannot communicate.(Bobb Biehl)

If you’re wondering what you can do to up-level your clarity, make sure you subscribe to our Blog and stay tuned for the next adventure into Clarity Land.

In the meantime, inquiring minds want to know. When have you thought you were crystal clear and yet . . . ? Would love to hear your experiences so we can all feel just a little better when we hear the dreaded, “I didn’t know you meant that!”


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