It’s that time of year when people make plans and goals for becoming better versions of themselves while taking a break from the daily grind. Some may even snuggle under a cozy blanket with a hot cocoa and binge-watch some TV shows on Netflix.
While I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions (oh, the guilt), in 2018 I’m resolving to lean into the discomfort I sometimes feel when communicating. And I want to do this with grace. I want to become more aware of the different backgrounds and experiences that cause people to act the way they do—especially when they do or say something that’s incomprehensible or even hurtful.
I don’t watch much TV, but I readily admit to occasional Netflix marathons. This Netflix message that pops up after watching 4 shows in a row is a hilarious example of simple communication that can go awry depending on the state of each person reading it:
When I saw this question pop up on my screen (during a recent binge-watching session), I felt the slightest irritation that I had to find the remote and click it. But I also felt grateful to the programmer who added this checkpoint to safeguard against playing through all the shows in a season in case I’d walked away or fallen asleep.
Maybe it’s because I recognize that my memory is like a steel sieve. Or maybe it’s because I sometimes go months between watching episodes in a show, but I depend on Netflix’s tracking system to tell me where I left off watching earlier. So, I read Netflix’s question as a protection for me. Of course, I thought everyone interpreted it the same way.
Then I cracked up when I saw my Facebook friend, Brandi Lea’s, tongue-in-cheek comment about how she felt Netflix’s judgment when this question popped up on her binge-watching day. It turns out this is a thing—the wide variety of ways that people interpret Netflix’s simple question.
Some people interpret Netflix’s question as snarky, judging the type of show they’re watching:
Others see Netflix’s question as mocking that their life has fallen apart:
Some viewers expect that Netflix is making fun of their lack of close relationships in life:
Some read it to mean that Netflix is insecure or lonely:
Still others feel that Netflix is judging them for watching so many shows in a row:
What great examples of how even the simplest messages we share can be received so differently depending on the receiver’s feelings and experiences. Interpreting the intent behind what we read can be even more difficult than spoken words because we can’t hear their tone of voice or see their body language.
As a writer, I’m faced with attempting to overcome this dilemma every day. When I focus too much on the power of personal bias though, I’m tempted to stop trying to communicate anything because I figure it will just be misinterpreted. Or I’m motivated to add 20 explanation footnotes to every email I write. Neither of these extremes is healthy or what God wants. We’re all given responsibility to listen to others and to respectfully voice our own viewpoint too.
We need to expect and give grace for gaps. Even in the simplest communication, there will always be gaps.
In this New Year of 2018, I’m shooting to have more awareness of possible communication gaps. When someone shares with me, I hope to keep in mind their probable insecurities and unique experiences before I jump to conclusions about their intent.
I’ll begin with the assumption that each person means well and if the words are written, that the tone isn’t sarcastic. Well, this applies unless the message is from certain friends who rock the whole sarcasm thing – in a good way.
So, I’m also resolving not to let this awareness of communication gaps shut me down from sharing. To do this, I’m also anticipating a little more grace from others to fill in my all-too-common communication gaps. Do you think it will work?
What about you—even if you’re simply resolving to relax without guilt, are you making any resolutions this year?