When you talk to someone you don’t know, or barely know, and their meaning isn’t clear, you can:
- Ignore it and move on – low importance
- Ask them to clarify
When you talk to a family member, it’s a different situation. You have years of history together and you’re going to see them again. Ignoring it may not be an option, depending on how casual the conversation is.
There are several possible reasons that their meaning isn’t clear:
- It’s just careless conversation that they haven’t thought much about.
- It’s something they are processing out loud, and they don’t really know what they mean either.
- They intentionally try to say something without saying it
- Maybe they’re afraid being more direct will offend you
- Maybe they want deniability for their true meaning by using generic words and using tone and facial expression to deliver the meaning
- Maybe they have an agenda that they are testing
The trap that we create for ourselves is creating an interpretation in our own mind. We basically tell ourselves that we know what they are thinking. But we don’t.
Here are some possible strategies to avoid interpreting:
Notice how you feel. If you’re reacting, get proactive.
Leave the past in the past. Treat this moment as if it is the first time.
Ask with genuine curiosity. “I want to be sure I understand what you mean. Could you clarify that for me?”
DO NOT say: “What do you mean by that?”