We all try to make sure we’re both being understood and heard by each other when we communicate. But, unfortunately, miscommunication still happens. Whether it’s due to the way we express ourselves or the way others receive our messages, misunderstandings can occur at any moment, even with those closest to us. The good news is that most of the time, miscommunication can be resolved with just a few simple strategies. Here are 10 tips for resolving miscommunication.
Be honest about how you feel.
It may sound obvious, but sometimes we’re not honest with ourselves about how we really feel about something. If you find yourself getting frustrated with someone, it’s important to be honest about what you’re feeling and why. Many people find it challenging to open up about their true feelings, but honesty is the best way to resolve any miscommunication. Without honesty being a factor, miscommunication will perpetuate.
Be clear about your point of view.
State your point clearly and concisely. Don’t leave room for additional misinterpretation by using vague or ambiguous language. To ensure all of your points are made, it may be helpful to write down notes about how you feel and bring them to the discussion as a guide for yourself.
Listen to their side of the story.
Everyone wants to be heard. The moment you take that away from someone or disregard their voice, the conflict will escalate. Before jumping in and defending yourself or your actions, hear them out. Their interpretation of your action or words may have been completely different from what was intended, but silencing the other person’s voice won’t fix the misinterpretation.
Don’t play the blame game.
One of the first steps toward resolving a miscommunication is letting go of any feelings of blame. While it may be obvious that one party is at fault, it may not be to them. If positive conflict resolution is the goal, avoid blaming and shaming others. Instead, listen to their experiences and respond without bias.
Remove distractions during a discussion.
Turn off your phone, shut down your computer and make sure that there are no other people in the room who might be listening in or trying to interrupt or participate in the conversation. If you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone else, it may help to meet somewhere quiet and private so that you can focus fully on what they’re saying and vice versa.
Leave room for gray areas.
When there’s an issue or disagreement between you and another person, try to avoid making everything black and white. This means allowing for some ambiguity in your communication so that both parties know there may be more than one way to interpret what’s being said or done.
Don’t make assumptions.
Don’t assume that the other party knows what you mean or interprets your words or actions in the way you intended them to be interpreted. We all interpret things differently based on our life experiences and we’re not mind readers. Assumptions during a conflict breed miscommunications and misinterpretations.
Listen without judging.
Before responding (or reacting) to someone else’s words or actions, make sure you’ve heard them correctly by pausing before speaking up or responding in any way. Once you’ve confirmed what was said or done and how it was received by the other party, then proceed with your response if necessary.
Ask the right questions.
Ask questions to clarify unclear issues early on in an interaction instead of waiting until later to explain yourself. If something isn’t clear, ask for clarification immediately so you can both get on the same page and prevent problems down the road.
Don’t take things personally!
As soon as you get upset, your mind goes into defense mode and closes off from other viewpoints. Try not to take things personally, especially if it’s not about you personally but about something else entirely (such as a misunderstanding about what’s going on). Don’t assume malicious intent on someone else’s part just because they said something hurtful or did something wrong; chances are they aren’t out to get you — they simply made a mistake.
Mistakes will always be a part of human communication. We’re only human. But that doesn’t have to mean that miscommunication can’t be avoided, or resolved once it has occurred. The tips we’ve outlined here are designed to get you thinking about how you might resolve communication issues in the future. Even if you rarely find yourself struggling with miscommunication, it’s always a good idea to try and leave the door open for improvements and growth.