Unwritten rules

Just think about how hard life is if you don’t know the language. You’re always frustrated and you always feel that nobody understands you.

If you walk up to a food stand, you hope they have pictures so you can point at what you want. If what you want isn’t there, you are stuck because you don’t know how to ask for it. They also may have something really fabulous that you don’t even know you want. You’ll never know about it, because you can’t read that language.

We have ways to teach people language. For their first language, they learn by imitating their parents at the beginning. Then they go to school and learn more. They have to start with the basics of the alphabet and what sounds each letter makes. Once they can do that, they can then work on putting the letters together to make words. Then they can put the words together to make sentences. It is a long step-by-step process that hopefully, usually, results in us being able to communicate with each other.

But what if the language isn’t written down?

There are a lot of social rules that are just assumed, but if you “read” them wrong, you have failed at communication just as surely as if you read the book backwards. You don’t know what is happening or what to do next.

Everybody wants to be heard and understood. They want their feelings to matter.

We have a habit of assuming that everybody is like us and have had the same upbringing. We also have a habit of thinking that nobody is like us and we are all alone. Both have great fault to them. These ways of thinking cause the majority of communication issues. Often it doesn’t matter what you say, but what you don’t say that matters the most.

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Do unto others as they do unto you.

Sometimes the rule isn’t “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Sometimes the best way to interact with a person is to imitate how they are interacting with you.

Imagine this – if they are working on the premise of “do unto others…” then how they are interacting with you is exactly how they would like to be treated. So if your way doesn’t work, try their way.

If they stand too close, try standing close to them when you initiate a conversation. If they only talk standing up, try that. It may make you feel uncomfortable, but it may help them feel comfortable. If you keep communicating with them your way and not their way, they may feel like something is wrong. These unwritten rules of social interaction are often what make or break a conversation.

Just like different cultures have different conversational styles, so do different people. To make someone feel comfortable, try doing things their way – not yours. Often, it isn’t what is said, so much as how it is said that makes the conversation work or not.