A Tried and True Tête-à-Tête

A Tried and True Tête-à-Tête

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Have you ever played Chinese Whispers or Russian Scandal? Okay, me neither. But I bet you’ve played Telephone, which is how we know it here in America.


According to Wikipedia, the game Telephone is a game in which each person whispers a phrase into the ear of the person next to him or her. As the phrase makes it around the circle, each person hears something different. By the time it makes it all the way around the circle, the phrase is completely different from when it began! 

That’s all fun and games when you’re at a party, but when you’re faced with the challenge of conveying a message whether with co-workers 0708DEGROOT_FASHION.gifor family members, especially in times of conflict, it can be frustrating to be misunderstood. Here are some simple and concise steps to keep in mind to be sure that your communications are effective. Remember the acronym T.E.T.E.: Tone, Expression, Timing and Empathy.

Tête-à-Tête is a French phrase that literally means head to head, but translated to English it’s a private conversation between two people. Putting your heads together to come to an agreeable resolution begins and ends with understanding how to communicate.

Tone: It’s very important to remember that the majority of communication is non-verbal. We assign meaning to what others say (or don’t say) based on their tone, body language, facial expressions and eye contact. The verbal part is less meaningful than the non-verbal part most of the time. Often words are inadequate to express what you see in the look on someone’s face.


0208GIBBERMAN.gif Expression: Language is a complex beast. There is a whole process involved in the communication transaction. Message, encoding, transmission, receiving, decoding, understanding and feedback, phew! No wonder we get the message mixed up. The words we choose to use are often open to interpretation because meaning has to be given to words and many factors influence the meaning any given person will attribute to any given word. Things such as cultural differences, power struggles, pre-judgments and assumptions affect what meaning an individual will give to particular words.


Some characteristics of effective communication involve the following:


  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Emphasize behavior instead of personality
  • Focus on facts rather than judgments
  • Share ideas rather than give advice

Timing: We all know that timing is everything. This is especially true when giving feedback of any kind. A poorly timed message will do more harm than good. 0408OAKLEY.gif
Empathy: Empathy and empathetic listening go hand in hand. To hear describes an auditory process. To listen, on the other hand, describes an emotional and intellectual process that happens when trying to search for understanding. Be empathetic. Imagine yourself in the other’s shoes.

Researchers have identified that the bottom line is that improvements in relationships occur when the qualities of genuineness, acceptance and respect of the other person, and empathy are practiced.
Okay, now turn to your right and repeat it to the next person…


Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: The McAlpin
Models: Katie Main (sitting) and Meggie D (standing)