Confidence Tip: How misunderstandings happen and how to deal with them
Partner 1 texts partner 2 on a very cold winter’s morning:
“Windows frozen, won't open.”
Partner 2 texts back: “Gently pour some lukewarm water over it and gently tap edges with hammer.”
Partner 1 texts back 5 minutes later: “Computer really messed up now!”
Madeleine Morgan of Growu writes:
The joke reminded me of two things that could be useful to you.
The first is a very challenging quote from David Gordon, “Just because you’re making a noise in my direction, don’t assume you’re communicating with me!”
I remember coaching a manager who was totally frustrated because he’d have long conversations with members of his team to arrive at decisions about what and how they were going to do things only to find that they didn’t do what he thought they were going to do, in the way he thought they’d agreed they would do it.
How many times have you left the scene of a conversation totally confident that the other person knew exactly what you meant, only to find there’s been a complete misunderstanding? Aarghh!
The second thing the joke reminded me about was how easy it is to fall into the trap of wading in with a solution before you know enough about the problem. The risk being that you might give an irrelevant solution, a solution that’s only partially correct or one that’s totally unwelcome because a solution wasn’t being asked for anyway!
So…what can you do to avoid these misunderstandings in the first place and how can you deal with these misunderstandings if they come up?
How to Avoid Misunderstanding
Here are 5 tips:
- At the end of a conversation where decisions are being made or actions agreed, check you are both going away with the same understanding of what has been discussed. To avoid misunderstandings you might say: ‘Just so that I can check my communication, would you feed back to me what you understand that we’ve agreed?’ Or you could ask a summarising question that ensures there is mutual understanding such as, ‘So, am I right in thinking we’ve agreed…?’
- When someone seems to have a problem check whether they are looking for you to suggest solutions.
- When someone asks your advice, ask more questions about the problem before you give any solutions
- If you misunderstand what someone has said, take responsibility for jumping to conclusions.
- If they misunderstand what you’ve said, take responsibility for miscommunicating and find another way to express yourself so that they do understand.
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Quotes of the Week about Communication and Misunderstandings
- “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
- “How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied--or, for that matter, awarded--because someone failed to see you properly? Kevin Brockmeter
- “As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other.” Marcel Duchamp
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