I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “I didn’t mean it like that!” I’d be a very wealthy man! The sad fact is, the messages we send can be received differently than we intend. And, when it happens, it can be a disaster.
Miscommunication can happen to all of us, probably more often than we’d care to admit. There are, however, some simple things you can do to minimize it.
Four things affect how others receive our messages…and any one of them can be the cause of major misunderstandings if we’re not careful:
1. Word choice – This factor is huge, especially when we discuss sensitive topics or relationships. In these situations, our emotions can interfere with our thinking, and we often use more provocative language that we later regret. In the “heat of battle,” we can be so focused on proving our point that we forget to show tact, empathy, and understanding to the other party. The end result is that things spiral out of control, and frustration and anger take over.
2. Delivery – Sometimes it’s our manner of delivery that gets in the way, even if our word choice is fine. Examples include speaking with a harsh or condescending tone of voice or displaying arrogant facial expressions or body language. No matter what words we use, if the “packaging” is incongruent, our message will lack credibility and rub people the wrong way.
3. Form – Ever wanted to jet off a nasty email when you’re upset or irritated? Don’t be so quick on the draw. The advantage of verbal communication is that the audience hears you speak, allowing your tone to help convey your ideas. In contrast, written communications (e.g., letters, email, texts, social websites) have a major disadvantage because the audience imposes their own interpretation of your tone. Their perception may be light years away from what you intended. If so, you have a big problem on your hands.
4. Filter – Depending on whether your audience likes or distrusts you, whether they’re in a good or bad mood, focused or distracted by other thoughts, your message may not get through in the way you intended. Unfortunately, this happens all the time (especially with written communications), and you can’t control it.
Miscommunication can happen to all of us, probably more often than we’d care to admit. There are, however, some simple things you can do to minimize it:
· Carefully choose your words (“think before you speak!” works better than “open mouth, insert foot!”)
· Be sure your expression and words are in sync
· Strive to be empathetic by putting yourself in the audience’s position
· Closely monitor the receiver’s body language to see whether he or she may be interpreting your words differently than you intend. If you notice a frown, for example, clarify your comments to ensure you are on the same page.
· Be a discerning listener when they respond
· Be quick to apologize for any misunderstandings
Do you pay close attention to how you communicate and how your words are being received? What are some ways you’ve learned to be a more effective communicator? Please share your insights and experiences by commenting below. And share us with a friend!