Just Checking

Well am I getting paranoid

or maybe superstition is making me feel this way

checking in, checking out

I seem to do it every day.

Status Quo ‘Like a Zombie’ 2002 ‘ Rock Til You Drop’ Album


One of the most important and neglected skills in interpersonal communication is ‘checking’. So many arguments and difficulties between people are based on inaccurate perception of information; prejudiced assumptions; simple misunderstandings; and wrong interpretations. This can lead to much hurt and anger as arguments escalate out of control. Once the emotional reactions begin to prevent rational, clear, and accurate discussion then problem solving becomes almost impossible. 

‘Checking’ can take place very early in a discussion where there is apparent disagreement or conflict. For example, the questions ‘Can I check my assumptions about what you are saying?’ or ‘ Can I check whether I have understood you accurately?’ can precede a paraphrasing of what is thought to have been said or meant. This can clarify quickly a potential argument based on a false premise. Too often the argument has already escalated before this step has been taken. Sometimes the discussion is badly timed where one party is unprepared. Sometimes when one is wanting to initiate a request for sharing or for some wanted action or agreement it can be useful to precede the discussion with the checking question ‘Is this a good time for you to discuss x,y,or z.?’ If it not a good time, make a mutually suitable time to have the discussion. This can prevent one party feeling ambushed. It also can allow time for preparation of thoughts and a co-operative attitude. It is often useful in an intimate relationship to schedule a  ‘checking meeting’  regularly at a fixed interval to have automatic opportunities to deal with new, unfinished or unresolved business.

In some cases where there is an established disagreement in what is wanted by each party then a useful checking question could be ‘ What would it take to solve this problem and move forward ?’ or ‘ I was wondering if a compromise solution might be x, y, or z ?’ as a starting point for a resolution process. In situations where there is no disagreement but an absence of response (i.e. to an email; voicemail; or feeling ignored in some social situation, with another individual or group ) it can be useful to clarify with a checking question. Instead of harbouring lingering feelings of rejection or assumptions about negative feelings, the situation can be confronted. Rather than running  with an assumed story which can become self fulfilling, it may be best to check with a direct question like ‘ have I offended you inadvertently?’ If there is no problem the other is alerted to your feelings and may provide a different explanation. Alternatively, if there is a problem the issue can be ventilated and explored allowing the potential for problem solving.

This process invites a sort of intimacy in sharing. There seems little point in doing this with someone with whom you don’t want to be intimate. This may be someone you don’t see very often or is not important in your life.

 If you require the services of a Perth Psychologist or Perth Counsellor, please contact me at makomdavid@gmail.com