Communication can be tricky.
Case in point…
My husband gets so frustrated with me sometimes… It’s because admittedly, I possess a little known (but easily diagnosed) mental disease called, Noun-Omission Syndrome.
Now, I’m certainly not proud of my status as a noun-omitter… And I don’t exactly know when the disease first began. For the record, I do know what ‘chairs’ and ‘boxes’ and ‘water-bottles’ are actually called. However, every once in a while, for some irrational reason, instead of using the ‘real words’ – I occasionally substitute those words for other words like “thingy” and “do-hickey” and “it”. Just the other day, I’m asking my husband to help me take “it” downstairs and set “it” by the “thingy” where the “do-hickey’s” are (See? Such an awful disease…).
I’m not sure why I don’t always use the proper words at the proper time… But, I’m absolutely guilty as charged. In fact, I’m pretty much a sucker for a “wadda-you-call-it” when it comes to identifying stuff. It’s almost as if my brain has decided “thingy bopper” is the actual name of the item in which I’m trying to describe – and I can’t stop until the word “thingy bopper” comes out of my mouth!
And here’s the crazy thing – I know I have Noun-Omission Syndrome… But, I actually get upset whenever I use these silly, generic terms, and the people around me don’t understand what I’m trying to say! Well – Hold on… That’s not completely true…
I don’t get upset when someone doesn’t know what I’m saying (because again, having lived with this syndrome for some time now, I know when I’m screwing it up)… Instead, I get upset when someone doesn’t even try to guess what I’m saying!
Yes – I get frustrated when my Noun-Omission Syndrome takes over, causing me to say something nondescript, and then the people around me just stare blankly ahead as if I’m from another planet. In my mind I’m thinking, “C’mon! You know what I mean! If you’d just TRY to consider what I’m thinking, you might be able to help me!” lol!
What’s crazy is that most people who don’t meet me half way (*cough cough* my husband) are often thinking something completely different… Instead of trying to meet me half-way, his thinking is somewhere along the lines of, “C’mon! Stop TRYING and just say what you freaking mean so we can understand each other already! Geez!”
And therein lies the impasse. Both parties wishing the other would “do their job” to communicate.
Now – since Noun-Omission Syndrome is a disease, I obviously think I’m the one who should be indulged (rather than other way around). And of course… Because my husband doesn’t believe in Noun-Omission Syndrome (cue the eye roll), he’s not exactly ‘jumping in’ to save me.
Which brings me back to my original point. Communication can be tricky.
That’s why I’ve decided the best cure for Noun-Omission Syndrome is something we can all employ every day. It’s called, the benefit of the doubt.
Now – I’m not perfect in offering the benefit of the doubt – but I’m a whole lot better than I used to be! In case you’re a Noun-Omitter (or you know someone who is), here’s how it works…
When you offer someone the benefit of the doubt, you’re actually performing a mental switch. Doesn’t matter what the conflict is – When you give them the benefit of the doubt, you take your mind OFF of your frustration, and instead, you begin to apply empathy to the person/situation that is frustrating to you.
Let’s say I’m about to be interviewed by someone I don’t know. I’m hungry – I’m tired – And I may or may not have had a strong desire to go to this interview, even though I know it’s my job to do so.
During the interview (where I am tired and hungry), the person from the newspaper is extremely friendly… Very conversational, super-engaging… And in a strange kind of way, this person seems to really “get” me. In fact, we connect quite quickly… Which instead of causing me to fall into Noun-Omission Syndrome, it actually causes me to go into another one of my maladies known as, OSD… “Over-Sharing Disorder”.
Now, I’ve been told before that sometimes I have a tendency to over-share and that my OSD can take over without realizing it. But again, even though we just met – I feel like I can trust her. We’re really, really connecting – and I don’t get that every day. In fact, most days I’m the one who has to adapt to someone else!
You see, my job is all about making other people feel great. And it’s a wonderful job – but, in order for me to make other people feel great, it means I have to constantly adapt to them. It’s actually my job to mirror their personality – and once I do that, I’m expected to reply to them in a way in which they will appreciate. If I don’t, the encounter falls short – that person leaves without ‘feeling great’ – and that means, I’ve failed at my job. Therefore, when someone comes along and we connect – it means I don’t have to adapt to them! And LET ME TELL YOU – It sure feels nice to have that person adapt to me!
So, at this point in the interview, I let my guard down and I’m more genuine than I’ve probably been in a long time. And believe me – it feels amazing to have someone look at me, as the real me. That’s when my Over-Sharing Disorder kicks in at an all-time high, and before you know it, the lunch is over, my new friend is gone, and it’s back to my life of adapting to everyone else… Just as it was before the meeting began.
Now, when the interview gets published – and I see the words I said during that lunch meeting… It all looks very different in the light of day.
As it turns out, I was swindled.
Someone posing as someone who “really connected with me” has now turned into someone who was just out to get me. And it’s not good. In fact, to most people who read the interview, they think it’s bad. Very, very bad.
That’s when I suddenly regret the fact that I shared so much, so openly, with someone who had such ugly intentions to betray me. I got hustled. I’m exposed. And it sucks.
Which is exactly why it’s so important that we always offer the antidote to both Noun-Omission Syndrome AND Over-Sharing Disorder…
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Look. Nobody’s perfect. Therefore, when you offer someone the benefit of the doubt, you’re stepping away from your judgments and stepping into empathy.
How do you know if you’re offering the benefit of the doubt or not? Well – someone who IS offering this antidote usually starts by asking themselves a question like, “Why would that person ever do/say what they just did?”
And then (the real key is this…)… Do your best to come up with a logical answer.
When you stop focusing on your reaction (how you’re appalled, frustrated, annoyed, etc) – And when you start asking yourself why someone else would respond in a manner in which seems really annoying/frustrating/dumb to you… You’re usually able to come up with a scenario that extends the benefit of the doubt.
The benefit of the doubt is a super-strong antidote indeed. In fact – It’s like grace being poured out and drenched all over the ugliest of situations.
And here’s the thing…
Even if you’re lucky enough not to suffer from Noun-Omission Syndrome or Over-Sharing Disorder, I’m pretty sure at one point or another, all of us still need the ‘benefit of the doubt’ in our own lives.
And because you and I still need all the ‘benefit of the doubt’ we can get – It’s probably a good idea to give it to others as well.
The next time you see someone suffering from NOS or OSD, or the next time you see someone do something that appears completely against the norm of your expectations, do your best to extend the benefit of the doubt. After all – what good is empathy if we refuse to use it when it’s needed most?
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