“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw

How many times have you said something to someone and you believed they understood you, when in reality, they didn’t? Miscommunication can occur when two or more people have different experiences and definitions. I never gave much thought to this word because I was always under the impression that people just “get” the message I’m trying to convey. Sadly, it wasn’t very true in recent time and now that I think about, maybe in the past too.

Miscommunication is usually the root of many arguments and misunderstandings we have. Be it in workplace, between friends, or in a relationship. Have you ever worked with someone on a project, believing that both of you were on the same page but the end result is something that both of you couldn’t imagine? I recently had to work with a friend on a project but halfway through we realized (too late) that we both had different ways of working and we ended up working separately. It wasn’t a pleasant experience as we ended up in an argument and extra work. Thinking about it, the miscommunication was that we both had different definitions of what it’s like to work in a team. There are instances where two people have different upbringings and cultural backgrounds and thus view something in completely different light. Take civility for example. A lot of things might be considered rude or out of boundary in some cultures  but they completely normal in others. Greeting and smiling at strangers are more standard practices in some parts of Western countries compared than, let’s say, some Middle-Eastern countries. Too often, our actions or words could be misinterpreted.

Overcoming miscommunication is not difficult.

  • The first and foremost step is that you should listen carefully. We hear but we sometimes don’t listen.
  • Pay attention to the words, tone of voice and body language of the speaker.
  • When you hear someone taking to you, don’t let your thoughts wander. This happens to everyone when we “zone-out”.
  • Be there mentally. If it’s something very pressing where you can’t have room for misunderstandings, simply repeat the reader’s or listeners’ words in simpler words. If it’s an important term, let’s say “team-work”, make sure that both of you are on the same page about what it’s supposed to be like working in a team.
  • Use plain language and don’t use terms you yourself are not sure about. Sometimes, not everyone might know that “big” also means “walloping”.
  • Pay attention to how you communicate.

You might be surprised to see how much you can improve about yourself when you start applying yourself with these steps.

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