A few days ago, a party to a conflict described to me the root of the problem, from this person’s perspective: “He shouldn’t have to be told; he should know.” This concept is a common one in conflicts involving people with ongoing relationships: business partners or co-workers, families struggling to manage jointly-held assets, families grappling with tough healthcare decisions regarding an aging loved one.
The concept captures two dangers in communications that can escalate when a dispute is brewing.
First, everyone should be able to read my mind and know what I think. If the other person in this conflicts really knows me — and this person should — my point of view should be obvious.
Second, when communications go poorly, blame gets assigned. Our communication problems are caused by the other person’s failure to read my mind and it’s important to know who is at fault.
A better path, if resolving the conflict effectively is the real goal, is to voice your perspective: politely and thoughtfully. And if communications crop up, fixing them should be a higher priority than assigning blame for the lapse.