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Communication vs Interpretation

Are you suffering from Misinterpretation of good Communication?

How are you interpreting what is being communicated?

There is what we say, what we mean by what we say, what we hear and what we make it all mean. That is a mouthful, but so very relevant.

Here is an example – my friend called me to say he would be arriving at 7 pm. So, I sent him a text and I said, “Hey, I wasn’t sure if I should have dinner for you. Let me know if you have already had dinner.” And he replied back and said, “I’ll eat something.” That was his full text, “I’ll eat something.” But what he meant was, “Yeah, I’m hungry; I’ll eat something.” What I heard him say was, “Yeah, I’ll get something to eat before I come. I’ll eat something here,” is what I made what he said mean. See how easy it is to misinterpret what people say?

That is one aspect of communication gone bad. The other tricky area is in the workplace. It is really important when you are communicating in a working environment; when you are giving instructions to someone or you are communicating something that needs to be done for a job, that you are very clear in what your expectations are. Just remember that there is what you say and there is what you mean. Also remember that there is what they heard and what they make it mean. The gap needs to be closed between the words we say and what others hear. How are you interpreting what other people say?

Sometimes we carry past feelings about a person or situation, so when they speak to us, we are not fully listening because we are remembering the last conversation and assuming the outcome of the conversation, without really hearing what they said. Or we say things like “I know what you meant.” We can never really know what a person meant without hearing what they have to say and possibly repeating some of it back for clarification. Let’s say I have an employee who has done something for me and I don’t like the result, I can back up and say, “Okay, how did we end up with this result?” It is important to find where we haven’t given the correct direction or haven’t been clear enough. Sometimes, if we don’t know exactly what we DO want then that is where we end up with a negative result that we DO NOT want.

We also have communication in relationships that can sometimes be confusing. If you say to your partner for example, “I wish that you didn’t come home so late, I don’t like that you are always late because I miss you and don’t get to spend enough time with you.” I could just mean that I miss you and love you and wish you were home more. What your partner might say is “Well what I’m hearing you say is that I should come home earlier and that I’m being disrespectful and I’m not taking good care of you.” Your reaction would be to say “oh no, that is completely wrong and not at all what I meant.”

I always say, “think before you speak” which is really good advice, as it can save you from misinterpretation of good communication and it can create healthier relationships with everyone around you.


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