Communication is the source of a lot of confusion, arguments and misunderstanding.

The reason is that words often don’t capture the real meaning of what is being said and listeners will have their assumption about what you are saying and what is underneath it. Body language can give an indication as well as tone of voice. But wouldn’t it be helpful if everyone just said what they meant?

However, words have so many layers, that even the communicator isn’t aware of and misinterpretations are easily happening.

How about this example of a communication mistake?

Annette asks Jim: ‘Can you help me doing this?’

Sounds like an innocent question, but what could be the possible translation? What is Annette really saying?

  1. I pretend to be helpless, because I want your attention
  2. I am insecure and believe I can’t do it
  3. I don’t want to have the responsibility and if you help me, I can either blame you or at least share the responsibility
  4. I am just lazy
  5. I want to do other things, so the faster it is done, the better it is for me
  6. I want you to feel good about yourself by helping me out
  7. I want to check your abilities
  8. I want you to not succeed and show you that you are useless
  9. I want to check if you like me enough to help me out
  10. I am used to delegating as I feel too important to do this myself

And Jim answers: ‘I am not sure’. Behind his answer is a world of options as well.

  1. I don’t like you and don’t want to help you
  2. I am really busy
  3. I don’t believe I can do it
  4. What else do you want from me?
  5. I feel manipulated into doing something I don’t want
  6. Are you using me?
  7. Why don’t you ask your brother who is really good at things like this?
  8. I am sure you can do it herself
  9. I would love to help you, but is it the right thing to do?
  10. If I say yes this time, is it going to be a repeat request?

Both Annette and Jim are not clear in what they are saying.

Annette actually meant to say that she is insecure and doesn’t believe she can do it. Jim thinks that Annette wants to check if he likes her enough to help her out and it makes him feel manipulated and he is annoyed and irritated.

Wouldn’t life be easier if you just said what you meant?

It sounds easy to do that, but you need to check in with yourself to make sure what your message is. And then make the decision if and how to communicate that. There is a skill in presenting your point without being rude or dismissive.

Tips to avoid this number one communication mistake:

  1. Don’t judge, just observe.
  2. Never assume. Don’t fill in what the underlying message of the remark or question is.
  3. Instead ask ‘What exactly do you mean?’
  4. If your answer is going to be dismissive, you don’t have to give details. You can just say ‘I don’t agree, but let’s leave it at that.’ Or ‘Interesting’ and change the subject. Learn ‘the art of saying no’.
  5. Don’t accept unclarity or ambiguity, keep asking until the message is crystal clear.

Getting frustrated during an argument but don’t know why? Here is your answer.

Struggling with this a lot? Why not talk it through with me and book a free coaching call.