Meta-messages – Lower Intelligence

Have you noticed  people who speak meta-messages that leave victims running for escape hatches? You begin to question flaws between their lines because what you hear is not what the speaker means. How does it happen? People who lack interpersonal  intelligence, tend to use meta-messages instead of honest communications, and some even wonder why their victims bolt. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Meta-messages come from undeveloped interpersonal or linguistic intelligences, and they torpedo the very people you hoped to win. These masks also kill brainpower for future exchanges whenever meta-messages …

  • In sales, dive-bomb consumers at a business like a vulture swoops down for its kill. In response,  folks flee. Brain shut down with cortisol that comes through insincere statements such as, How are you? when you really mean, “How’s your bank account?”
  • In conflict, state meta-messages such as – All’s OK -  when it’s not, and you’re really holding a grudge about unspoken problems. Amygdalas flare, like lightning strikes iron rods, through meta-messages insincerity of words.
  • In learning, pretend you understand long before you do, and watch those you lead default back to ruts because you failed to speak sincerely, and so could not apply new facts accurately.
  • In communication, claim no feelings hurt, when emotions were literally crushed, and that meta-message sends convoluted meanings that leaves whole circles with mental regrets.

What do people really mean anyway, when they use camouflages such as -

1. I don’t mean to be critical but …
2. That’s OK …
3. Catch me next time…
4. It doesn’t really matter, but …
5. It’s only because I care that I tell you this …
6. Guess I’ll have to do it by myself from now on …
7. No hurt feelings… but
8. I don’t really mind at all …
9. Sorry …
10. I don’t mean to be negative, but …

If meta-messages are simple covers with convoluted meanings,  they rarely hide how speakers feel. Nor does it take Dr. Phil to  pick up on the fact that what people say in pretense may not be what they mean.

Check out the vernacular for common meta-messages below to see if you’ve detected similar hidden meanings from people you know.

1. People say – I don’t mean to be critical but they mean – this stuff stinks!
2. That’s Ok – which means – cause you’re too dumb to get it right anyway!
3. Catch me next time - is really meant to add -  if you can run faster than me from this thing!
4. It doesn’t really matter - means -cause you’ll never get it right anyway!
5. It’s only because I care that I tell you this – translates into – because if I didn’t say that first you’d likely pop me one when you hear what I have to tell you!
6. Guess I’ll have to do it by myself from now on – is really saying – cause none of you jerks will help!
7. No hurt feelings – is simply the disguise for – cause you’re too crude to waste feelings on anyway!
8. I don’t really mind - translates into – cause if I let myself mind I’d sue you for your last breath!
9. Sorry – says in reality –   you’re cramping my style and that’s a major problem, so don’t expect more cause I’m apologizing ahead.
10. How do you like my work – more truthfully begs -  Say it’s great. Say it rocks. Say it’s brilliant, OK?

Meta-messages torpedo trust and pretense prevents open communications in many toxic workplaces.  People say what others want to hear to avoid speaking what’s really on their mind? The opposite of meta-messages, tone that communicates sincerity can build goodwill even among people who disagree. Do you observe more tone or meta-messages?

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16 Comments

  1. one of my favorites that I hear and read in blog comment posts “no disrespect, I don’t mean to be crititical but….”

    I wonder if the use of these meta-tags are just a way to cover the individual lack of confidence in what they are saying. perhaps as you mentioned they have not had theri consciouness raised by mulitple intellegence concepts.

    when working with teams I spend time on creating what I call construct of the person, team, and organization.
    By delivering and createing a shared understanding of constructed perceptions of our speaking and what we are trying to say is not getting put across as strongly and as clearly as it seems within our heads.

    As far as salemen, who knows!?

    michael carduss last blog post..Mouse Traps for College Education Programs? Mouse traps build teams and minds.

  2. eweber says:

    Thanks Michael! What a great idea you have for building teams. Not sure of all the reasons people try to cover their meanings with meta-messages, but I have noticed that people who understand tone stills tend to use them far less. Tone skills offer genuine equipment for people to respect other people while raising opposite views in a wonderfully straightforward way. Have you found that?

  3. uberbabyboomer says:

    Hi Ellen,
    It was fun to *talk* with you on Twitter this morning. I had no idea who you are, which is why I love connecting on Twitter. Twitter is a potential sea of meta-messages and it is fascinating to me to watch how sincere, personal messages rise above the chaff of the insincere. Since I am a non-profit twitter-just-for-fun, I am under no financial pressure to make my tweets count for $$.
    I have added your blog to my reader and will be better informed next time you are on twitter!
    Hope your busy day is cheerfully productive, seriously!
    uberbabyboomer

  4. I have really enjoyed reading about tone skills on your blog.
    Actually I attempted to place some information about tone skills with a local non-profit that I am consulting on creating an internal leadership training program.
    These tone skills can empower people to say what is on their mind and allow others to accept it.
    It is like the opening of one of Golemand EI books or maybe Primal Leadership (I can’t remember) when they speak about how those who are break out mind changers and decision makers have a way about them of using their tone and questions to lead others to their decisions.

    Also many great CEO’s I have met are masters of tone. They can tell you what you are doing is not working and you feel almost proud that they shared what they were thinking with a tone of really wanting you and the organiztion to improve.

    On the flip side many angry leaders I have seen have great ideas althought the team never listens. Why? becuause of their tone.

    Your insight into tone and communication as well as brains have been som useful!

    michael carduss last blog post..Western New York Hidden Experts?

  5. eweber says:

    Thanks Michael, yes tone does include emotional intelligence (or intrapersonal intelligence) and the cool part is that it is also linguistic intelligence, which can both be ratcheted up a notch with brain based tactics. It would be fun to bee when we do Batavia session in March. Quite a crazy time of year for us – but we look forward to March MITA session and to engaging the group. Your work must get amazing results too! I can see a conference together – and who know why not!

  6. eweber says:

    Great insights and thanks for the word on Twitter too! My own reasons for engaging others there are very similar to yours – and thanks for stopping by, to engage in this discussion on meta-messages too!

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  9. [...] fresh perspectives to time worn terms. 4. Check out cynical results and name their outcomes. 5. Replace meta-messages with genuine words.  6. Practice opposites of a cynical mind in daily chunks.  7. Choose peace over battles when [...]

  10. [...] 7. Insincere people who speak words they don’t mean. [...]

  11. [...] No Brain Left Behind:  replaces meta messages that destroy relationships through implications different from what is said, for honesty spoken sincerely and with good [...]

  12. [...] Meta messages fly – so that communication flaws increase between what you hear and what speakers mean. [...]

  13. [...] response will likely come back. It’s more than using good tone though. It’s also bigger than meta messages, which merely mask what we mean. The kind that says, “it’s OK” when it clearly is not [...]

  14. [...] motives, regret your own weaknesses, or focus on deciphering what that person could have meant in meta-messages spoken, simply snip away.  Sure, name the problem thoughtfully,  rather than deny it exists, but [...]

  15. This is a great post Ellen. I love your take on communication and continue to learn a great deal thanks to your insights and good stuff lasts as I have only just found this thanks to a tweet from @tammylenski.

    I would like to add one more…

    “I can really appreciate what you are saying, but…” It is one that gets mediators in the rough and can break hard won rapport.

  16. I linked to your articles on metacommunication — nice work. I’m reading Dr. Deborah Tanner’s book on the topic currently, and have often wondered why people chose to try and read the metamessages that aren’t there. Creates a whole world of crazy. When people make judgments on their reading of metamessages, they truly sound out of their minds.

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