I’ve been seeing a specific kind of strained communication more and more lately. See if this rings a bell for you:
Two or more people are having a discussion that needs to lead to an outcome: a decision, an understanding, a set of actions. Somewhere in the back and forth, at least two people stop making sense to each other. This happens for lots of reasons—assumptions, indirect communication style, someone gets annoyed by something that happened before this meeting—it can be anything.
The longer the discussion continues, the farther the conversational tracks diverge. It becomes almost impossible to get to the outcome everyone ostensibly wants. What to do?
Someone needs to say, “Hey, can we pause this for a minute? I want to make sure I understand where we’re all coming from.” Doing this requires the humility to be able to admit that you’ve lost the thread, but my guess is that others will be relieved that someone spoke up and stopped the communication from spiraling completely out of reach.
When we realize that we’re spending more time trying to figure out what’s going on in the conversation than actually listening, it’s time to stop and recalibrate.