Have you ever noticed how the first few seconds of interaction with someone can set the tone for the entire conversation?
I just had one of those reminders from a brief phone exchange with my husband. I had called him at lunchtime with the intention of checking in and seeing how he was doing. I was feeling good about the day and excited about reaching him.
However, it took no longer than 30 seconds of hearing his voice to bring me down. I realize this doesn’t sound so good, but I am being honest. Plus, there’s a point to all of this and hopefully a reminder that we can all use to improve our communication with others.
Little did I know that my husband was having a frustrating morning, but he was and I just so happened to catch him it at a particularly frustrating moment. And it only took me asking the wrong question in the wrong way at the wrong time for him to snap.
He snapped. I got defensive. And the rest of the conversation went downhill from there.
What caught my attention was how the tone of that conversation set off the tone of further conversations with him later in the day. My email regarding some scheduling stuff was “strictly business” instead of my normal loving tone. And even after that we had a brief Instant Message exchange that lacked the intimacy and connection we are use to.
Why did the first 30 seconds of one conversation with my husband impact me so much? Because in our relationship how we are with each other—our level of connection, intimacy and positive exchange—is often the temperature gauge for the other areas of our life. If "we" (our relationship) are off, we both feel off in general.
My husband I have discussed this before. We know that how we greet each other when one of us walks in the door has a huge impact on how the rest of the evening will go. We have both made an effort to remember this and to stop what we are doing, welcome the other person home with open arms and a kiss so that we can help set the tone for a loving and connected evening. It only takes a few moments and it makes such a huge difference.
As for that phone conversation earlier today, my husband has apologized for taking his frustration out on me. We agreed that it wasn’t our best interaction and that we are looking forward to reconnecting when he gets home tonight.
My point: Good relationships take good communication. Good communication doesn’t always come easily…especially when you are tired, frustrated, sick or irritated. Choosing to tune your tone towards the positive when you first connect with someone can mean the difference between a positive and fulfilling conversation or a negative and unsatisfying conversation. Which will you choose?