‘Reading between the lines’ was another saying that my grandmother used to use all the time. It was something she taught me to do, as best she could, which in my life has been instrumental in decisions I have made.
I am not sure if my assumptions have always been correct though. I tend to read body language and expressions along with the pauses and unspoken words to get a bigger picture so I can judge the circumstances better. As communication is so very different these days as we do not communicate face-to-face as much as previously, it is much harder to really understand what is happening or being communicated.
As humans, doing the best we can do, telling a half story or not being totally honest with someone, so as not to hurt their feelings, is sometimes better, if you know or perceive that the truth will be detrimental. Being non-committal and using words like ‘interesting’ conveys its own story without having to say too much.
One of the most important things in communication is listening for and hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life-long quest. We are often quick to judge instead of really hearing what the other person is truly saying. Are they really hurt or in pain, is their heart broken or are they lonely or crying out for help?
Being a woman I am very aware that often we tend not to really say what we want to say as we would rather not get into a confrontation. In fact we really want the other person to ‘read us’ and know when there is something wrong that needs to be said. For many men saying things as they are appears to be easier as they tend to just say it as it is. Men tend not to get into the emotions, as many women generally do, and this then causes other challenges. It is a great advantage to be able to say something without being misconstrued, without hurting the other person. As we are all very different personalities this often does not happen and we really do not hear what is really being said.
It can be the greatest gift being able to just say what needs to be said and understood, whilst being wise enough to know when to say a comment without damage to the person or the relationship.
Learning to read between the lines was in earlier years, eg war time, used for transmitting coded messages. We still use this form
of communication, with our loved ones and children or in our work. If you really read between the lines you will ‘hear’ they are conceding to something that they really do not want to do, see or feel. I am sure my grandmother learned this skill as she lived through both World War I and II and spent many hours writing to soldiers who needed comfort.
Related: “Building Self-Trust”
I have been learning over the years not to believe everything that I read or hear literally. I endeavour to ‘read between the lines’ as much as I can. When someone says something in anger or hurt and then says that they didn’t mean it, for me there is always some truth behind what was said. Denying it is just covering up, knowing as the receiver that this is their real thought.
So, by perceiving or detecting a hidden meaning in someone’s writings and words, you often can get more information than the message really says. For example, when someone says everything is ‘fine’, reading between the lines often could mean that something was wrong, if the expression, and body language shows differently.
It is sometimes hard to express our real feelings or desires as we do not wish to be seen as weak. This not only happens in our personal lives but also in our professional lives. We wish to be perceived as strong and in control of our world. Only someone who really knows and understands someone else, can they detect the real truth. As doing business today is far more relaxed and open, it is easier to depict what is happening than ever before.
Whether we are face-to-face with someone, speaking to them on the phone or mobile texting the way we ‘read between the lines’ will be determined by the process used. When we are face-to-face we have body language and gestures to guide us, when it comes to speaking on the phone we only have tone of voice is the main key and finally, when we take the latest form of communication, via texting, this makes ‘reading between the lines’ very difficult. I feel that more relationship breakdowns can happen this way as the interpretation is totally left to the skill of the writer and the receiver, which more than likely is different!
Face-to-face communication gives us the opportunity to read what is happening and correct if we are misinterpreted. The voice can do this far more effectively than texting, as the receiver is out on a limb and can be misconstrued totally as a result of their interpretation of the comment.
Social media also has its drawbacks which is quite obvious by the way messages are interpreted and commented on. Often the comment is not related at all to what was intended by the original writer of the post.
So, learn to read between the lines of what is said or written. This is a skill that will support you in your relationships and communication generally in the future.
Jennie is available for one-on-one sessions via Skype or in person.
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