Confused by “Mixed Messages”?
Whether you have sent mixed messages or received mixed messages, you know the feeling of “disconnect.” Refusing to participate in sending “mixed messages” requires breaking the habit of “going along to get along.”
On the subject of mixed messages, Mohandas Gandhi’s famous quote is:
“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
Clarity vs Mixed Messages
My mom is the unofficial social organizer at her retirement community, with many friends. To celebrate her birthday at an intimate birthday party, she could invite only five of them, so she was careful not to talk about it openly, for fear of sending mixed messages or raising expectations she could not keep. She planned strategically whom she wanted to invite to create the perfect gathering, right down to food allergies and preferences. So thoughtful — and no mixed messages there!
Being honest about who you are, what you want, and setting boundaries about what is not acceptable will actually result in better outcomes than sending mixed messages when you are conflicted.
Break the Habit of Sending Mixed Messages
Why do people send mixed messages? Personally, I believe it is more of a habit than any deliberate attempt to create a problem. We want to be polite, not hurt people’s feelings, so we send mixed messages instead of being kind but direct. It’s easier to “go along to get along.”
What actually happens with mixed messages, at a gut level, is crazy-making!
When you are receiving mixed messages your intuition might say,
“something just doesn’t feel right.”
And we wonder why we get a queasy feeling in the pit of our stomach.
The “mixed messages” you are sending could be intuitively read as,
“WARNING! Something is wrong!!” Can I trust what I’m hearing? Can I trust this person?
Analyzing Mixed Messages
Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research broke down effective communications into the parts: Words (7%), tone of voice (38%), and body language (55%).
He concluded that when our words, tone of voice, and body language are not in alignment — that is, we are saying one thing, but our tone of voice belies the words we speak — we are sending a mixed message.
Here’s the breakdown:
• At 7%, words carry the lowest percentage of weight;
• At 38%, tone of voice (sarcasm vs a happy, bright tone) will override words;
• At 55%, body language (comfortable, steady eye contact vs looking away, or open, relaxed body position vs arms/legs crossed) will override what the tone of voice is communicating.
Let’s analyze what “mixed messages” are, and consider how we can stop participating. Mixed messages are when you say one thing, but you actually mean something else.
In some way, you “send” your true meaning at the same time you are sending what you think you should say – perhaps the “politically correct” meaning.
What does a mixed message look like? With today’s technology, you may be texting or emailing because it’s faster than phoning. Have you ever stopped to consider whether sending a text message, or an email, can communicate everything you are really wanting and intending to say?
To see a “100% effective” example of what I’m trying to demonstrate regarding mixed messages, please paste this url into your web browser:
Choose Clarity Over Mixed Messages
Did you see and hear the difference between carefully choosing clarity over sending “mixed messages” inadvertently? Or worse yet, sending mixed messages intentionally? Too often we’re unconscious about sending “mixed messages” that create confusion and misunderstanding.
Communicating “on purpose” will lead to clarity, even if the content of the message itself is uncomfortable to deliver
Start monitoring your conversations and analyzing them. Be honest, with yourself and with others, at a deeper level that just habitual communication. Especially the ones you love the most!
The truth of the matter is, we’re either building a stronger bond with people, or we’re slowly eroding the trust we once had. You cannot do both at the same time. It’s crazy-making to think that you can.
Here’s my “truth, quicker, faster” from my book, Integrity-Based Communications:
Using your authentic truth to get what you really want will result in different outcomes.
I challenge you to see if this method of communicating helps you get what you really want, while helping others get what they really want! And who wouldn’t find that more satisfying than being confused by sending or receiving mixed messages?
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