POTENTIAL MISCOMMUNICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Some forms of miscommunication relate to issues of self esteem, attachment difficulties or other significant issues. In those cases seeing a therapist would be beneficial. Other forms of miscommunication result from our being rushed, not being as clear as we thought, or assuming the other person knows what we are thinking. This article focuses on the latter forms of miscommunication and serves as a reminder of things you probably already know but forget to apply.
1. Many miscommunications occur because either person does not give complete information or enough detail to clarify what they are trying to communicate.
Unclear, incomplete or vague information in a discussion can result in each person coming away with different interpretations of the conversation. For example, “I thought we were just brainstorming.” “When I said ‘Right’ I was just agreeing with you, I was not saying I would do it.”
It is helpful to organize your thoughts ahead of time when something important is being discussed and have a clear understanding of what you want resolved by the end of the conversation. If you are the listener, make sure you summarize any conclusions and clarify any generalities. If you are the speaker, it is best not to assume the other person fully understood what you meant.
2. Miscommunication occurs because people do not double-check to make sure there is agreement between them and what they are agreeing to.
So many times someone will say “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that; weren’t you?”
Or “I didn’t know you wanted that, also.” Or “I thought I was going to pick you up at the stop sign, not by the restaurant.”
Clarify the specifics of a communication by asking questions, such as:
It is important in the initial conversation that no one is rushed, that the critical information is not embedded in a lot of details, that you are looking directly at each other, and that one of the parties says “So we are agreeing that…” In some situations, it is best to write things down — e.g., a shopping list, or an e-mail, or a checklist of responsibilities.
3. Miscommunication can happen when one of the parties “turns off” their attention during the communication and then just agrees at the end, even though they have not listened.
This can occur because the listening party may be preoccupied. Or, the speaker may be angry and the other person is feeling attacked; or the listener may not really want to discuss this issue.
It is valuable to monitor your feelings, are you angry or anxious? Sometimes people feel they can cover their feelings, but their nonverbal communication – such as verbal tone or body language displays it anyway. It is best under such circumstances to choose a better time. If there is no better time, then be honest about your feelings and ask the other’s help in being constructive.
By asking for the help, it is more likely the other person will be an active participant and not tune out the discussion. If you are the person who tunes out, be aware the other person may not recognize this and believes an agreement has been reached, for which you will later be held accountable. It is better if you express that you are not ready to have the conversation at this time, or need some adjustments by the other person in order to be ready.
These examples may seem obvious, but miscommunication occurs frequently and the suggestions offered here may be very helpful in reducing friction in relationships.
Dr. Malcolm Miller is a Clinical Psychologist practicing in West Los Angeles and Torrance and is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network. He may be contacted at 310-822-9998 or email@example.com.
Copyright 2012 by Malcolm Miller, Ph.D.
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