THE BLOG
11/21/2011 08:22 am ET | Updated Jan 21, 2012

Soul-Talk: Why Are You So Misunderstood?

Do you ever find yourself misunderstood by people you are only trying to help? If so, it could be that they misunderstand your intentions more than the information. In fact, they may feel more criticized than cared for. Know anyone who relishes more criticism?

As a natural born critic myself, I have both the gift and the curse of being able to see what's missing in all kinds of situations. People used to ask me to come with them to the car dealer if they were going to pick up a new car because they knew that my natural critic would find any number of little nudge items that most people would miss. That's not such a bad skill to have if the job is picking up a new car; not so good, however, if the job at hand is being a good friend whose observations are welcome.

Very few of us enjoy having the chips in our paint pointed out. Even if the information is important and accurate, it seems that most people struggle with receiving "constructive feedback." One part of the issue may be our own struggle with deficit thinking. Have you ever noticed how easily you can find yourself criticizing your own self?

Do You Have an Obnoxious Roommate in Your Head?

I was listening to Arianna Huffington speak at the Paley Center recently, and she used a great metaphor for the process of the inner (self) critic. She called that incessant inner critic her "obnoxious roommate living in her head." My good friend, Heide Banks takes it one step further: "Roommate? I have an inner landlord!" It seems that most of us may have obnoxious roommates or even landlords living in our heads.

Of course, that obnoxious roommate is only "trying to help." Enough help, already.

However, what if that inner critic really does have something useful or important to share? There's an old cliché that comes into play here: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. It isn't the information that is the problem. It's the way it is communicated.

Many years ago I was leading an Insight Seminar along with my teacher, John-Roger. We were both working with individuals on themes of limiting behaviors. While our information and feedback were similar, people were struggling with what I was trying to share while seemingly embracing what he had to say. On a break, he took me aside and shared something with me that was both profound and life changing.

Building on the theme of until they know how much you care, he told me that the difference between how people received his feedback and how they reacted to mine had not to do with the information itself, but in how it was delivered. Not being completely stupid -- (I was going to edit this phrase out, but thought I'd leave it in because it's a great example of how my obnoxious roommate operates, even to this day) -- I asked him to say some more.

He asked if I knew what a "carrier wave" was. Nope. An oversimplified explanation would be to think about a television or radio show. There's the show being broadcast and then there's how it gets to you. The carrier wave is the transport mechanism and the show you are watching or listening to is the information.

John-Roger likened human communication to the radio or TV show -- there's the information being shared and then there's the carrier wave. He told me that while we both were sharing similar information, his rode on a carrier wave of caring while mine rode on a carrier wave of criticism. People listening to his information had the experience of being cared for, while people listening to mine had the experience of being criticized. Same information, different experience.

Transform Obnoxious to Caring

Perhaps there's something in this simple little message for you, as there continues to be great learning for me. The next time you have something important to share with another, pause a moment to reflect on the information, the value of that information and the person with whom you wish to communicate. Having your information lined up is important, no question. However, having your caring lined up is even more important.

Whenever I pause and connect to the part of me that truly cares, I usually find that I can share the information in a way that allows the caring to come through. If I'm running at warp speed, I am more likely to only think about the information than the caring. That results in the other person being blasted by the intensity and speed of the information as well as feeling criticized, even harshly criticized.

Of course, if the other person were to complain about being criticized, my obnoxious roommate would dismiss the complaint with something like: Jeez Louise, you think that's being criticized? That's nothing compared to what goes on in here. Grow up!

Nice, huh?

If you have been following this Self-Talk to Soul-Talk series that began in October, you will recognize that the Self-Talk comes from that obnoxious critic, while the carrier wave emanates from your Soul. So from whom would you prefer to communicate?

I'd love to hear from you. What's your take on this notion of the carrier wave of caring? What would leading a soul-centered life mean to you? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.