“Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
~ Miguel Angel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements.
A week ago a friend and I had a Play Day together, a day trip which included swimming, hiking and bocce ball. Fun! As we began our adventure, my friend did not seem his usual self. He was stiff, withdrawn and difficult to communicate with.
I noticed I began making assumptions: Is he mad at me? Am I talking too much? Am I annoying him? I was also aware that I was working hard at connecting to him, and I began to judge him and make up stories about where he was at.
My much anticipated Play Day was not starting out as I had hoped!
Eventually I asked him if everything was alright. I told him how I was feeling and what I was sensing from him and listened for his reply. He said that he was having some physical discomfort in his body, and a few other things that were causing him to feel that way.
After hearing him out, I told him how designing his impact with me would have been helpful to both of us. I said it is a communication skill that helps people know ahead of time where you are at to alleviate assumptions and create a more supportive environment. I gave him an example that went something like this:
Friend: I just want to let you know that I’m feeling a bit off today (giving details if need be). I may not be as talkative as usual. So if I’m quiet and looking a bit uncomfortable this has nothing to do with you personally.
Me: What do you need from me around this? How can I best support you in this space?
Friend: Maybe allowing for some quiet time in our Play Day, or talking about light-hearted things. That’s probably what I need, and I’ll let you know if I start feeling better.
This one, simple conversation helped me to relax and feel more comfortable with him. He was receptive to what I shared and I was to him.
Designing Your Impact is a simple skill often overlooked. It serves the person designing his impact to clarify needs and ask for support. And it supports the friend’s peace of mind by reducing the likelihood of assumptions and taking things personally.
Here are some examples that you may relate to:
- What I’m about to tell you is not easy for me. It’s been on my mind for a while. And just so you know it’s about me and my fears rather than you. What I need is from you is to offer me lots of space while I’m speaking, and to only share your perspective once I am finished.
- Just so you know I’m going to be late. I’m going to do everything I can to be there by 6pm.
- If you see me closing my eyes while you are speaking, it’s not because I’m disinterested, but rather it’s my way of really feeling what you are saying.
- Before you start talking, I want you to know that I may cut you off at some point because I need to go pretty soon. I’m sure it won’t be because you are boring! 🙂
Play with Designing Your Impact. Share this skill set with your friends and find simple ways to practice it. I’m sure you already are, and now you know what to call it!
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