Avoid misunderstanding - 5 tips for authentic communication

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Avoid misunderstanding - 5 tips for authentic communication

Wherever people communicate with each other, misunderstandings arise. Most of the time, we ourselves contribute to what we say being misunderstood by others through the way we communicate and with our behavior.

Scientifically, misunderstanding is described as a communicative disorder. As a rule, it is based on unintentional, erroneous interpretation or interpretation of a certain statement or action. There is thus a difference between what the sender actually meant and what is understood by the receiver.

Misunderstandings are part of everyday life

Misunderstandings happen every day in all areas of life. In the worst case, a misunderstanding can have serious consequences. If a matter is not presented correctly or is misunderstood, problems can arise at work or in the Relationship arise. How is it that misunderstandings creep into our lives? On what does it depend whether our interlocutors understand what we mean?

Unclear statements, compartmentalized thinking and other communication errors can lead to misunderstandings. Direct, authentic communication, on the other hand, helps to avoid misinterpretation and protects against what is said being misinterpreted.

What is a misunderstanding?

It is based on a false basic assumption. Everyone involved in the communication is convinced that they have stated the facts correctly or understood them correctly.

Linguistically, the word misunderstanding consists of the syllables "miss" and "understand". This indicates that something was not perceived correctly. In the dictionary, the term misunderstanding is described as a wrong interpretation of a statement or an action. If you say something that comes across to the other person completely differently than you meant it, this can have various reasons.

Multiple triggers

Since we communicate both verbally and nonverbally, the triggers for a misunderstanding can be manifold. In addition, each person has an individual perception. This is influenced by personal life experience, interests, values and intelligence, but also by feelings and prejudices. For this reason, misunderstandings cannot be ruled out in principle.

A message or a fact you describe to another person is transmitted on several levels, namely via:

  • Language and expression
  • paraverbal communication
  • nonverbal signals

A typical misunderstanding example is the use of foreign words in inappropriate places. Foreign language terms are considered a sign of intellectuality. However, used incorrectly, they can do more harm than good. Do you often use Anglicisms, even if you don't know whether the person you're talking to also knows these terms? You risk a misunderstanding!

A misinterpretation of a particular issue is usually based on a lack of information or only partially understood instructions. A misunderstood recording leads to the intended message not being recognized correctly.

 misunderstanding example

Difference from incomprehension or error

A misunderstanding is not automatically based on a mistake and is not to be equated with a lack of understanding. Although these terms are often used synonymously, they have different meanings.

A misunderstanding is an error in human communication. In this case, the recipient understands and interprets the statements differently than they are meant by the recipient. A misunderstanding, on the other hand, is an unrealistic conception of an issue and is based on faulty thinking, incorrect assessment or a misjudgment.

The term lack of understanding already suggests that it is about a lack of understanding. Lack of understanding can lead to misunderstanding, be its consequence or cause. Mostly, misunderstanding manifests itself in the form of fundamental non-understanding, rejection or lack of agreement. While misunderstanding is caused by communicative differences between at least two people, lack of understanding refers to the attitude of one individual.

Emergence of misunderstandings

We communicate verbally and nonverbally. However, what we say is not always received by the recipient in the way it was intended. If the communicated message is not interpreted correctly, it is called a misunderstanding.

Misunderstandings can be caused by:

  • complicated, ambiguous or contradictory statements
  • Misinterpretation of facts
  • inappropriate wording
  • lack of listening
  • missing empathy

arise. Every person thinks and processes information differently. Therefore, it can happen that one and the same message is interpreted completely differently by several people. The occurrence of misunderstandings is not unusual and is part of communication.

In order to prevent problems in the workplace, disputes in leisure time or Relationship crises become a challenge, it is necessary to avoid misunderstandings.

Misleading communication as a strategy

However, communication without misunderstandings is almost impossible to achieve. Sometimes misunderstandings are even intentional or are used strategically to achieve certain goals. Achieving goals. The emergence of a misunderstanding you can by:

  • close listening
  • specific inquiries
  • clear instructions
  • direct communication

prevent. However, misunderstandable statements are not entirely avoidable. The communicative misunderstanding is based on a misinterpretation. The message of a communicating person is misunderstood by the receiver, the person addressed. In communication theory, the sender-receiver model describes how communication works.

Thus, it is explained that the sender puts his thoughts into words and encodes them in a message. The receiver, who receives this verbal message, decodes it. In the process, various errors can occur, which we then call misunderstandings.

Paraverbal communication

You can use different channels to convey messages. We speak to other people and communicate verbally. With the help of our voice and way of speaking, we can convey additional information in addition to what is said in a hidden way. This approach is called paraverbal communication. Examples are:

  • Laughter
  • Clearing throat
  • Emphasis on one or more words
  • Change pitch
  • Speech pauses
  • Silence

The motto "The sound makes the music" is of great importance in this context.

clarify misunderstanding

What are the misconceptions?

A distinction is made between two different forms, namely:

  • verbal misunderstanding
  • nonverbal misunderstanding

A verbal misunderstanding is caused by the language, the choice of words and the sender's way of expressing himself. If you convey information or messages unclearly when speaking or if they are incomplete, the recipient may not understand them correctly. Ambiguous terms, technical terms, foreign words and sentences that can be interpreted differently can lead to misunderstanding.

In nonverbal communication, language plays only a secondary role. Facial expressions and gestures are much more important. The nonverbal means of communication also include the timbre of the voice and body posture. Touching, such as tapping on the shoulder, can also be used in nonverbal communication to express thoughts, intentions and wishes or to convey messages.

In order to understand what is said, not only verbal messages but also nonverbal communication is evaluated by the receiver. A misunderstanding is often the result of a faulty, unconvincing way of communicating.

How do I avoid misunderstandings?

They can foster conflicts. The negative effects range from problems at work to crises in relationships and disagreements and upsets among family and friends. To avoid conflict situations and wrong decisions, it is important to ensure that misunderstandings do not arise as far as possible.

At work, a misunderstanding can lead to disputes between colleagues and affect the working atmosphere. As Executive your task is to mediate. Clarifying a misunderstanding is necessary so that conflict-free work is possible again.

Since misunderstandings are mainly based on communication errors, it makes sense to pay attention to a direct, authentic way of communicating. This means not only personal communication, but also written communication. Nowadays, people communicate with each other mostly in writing via e-mail, chat, WhatsApp or another messenger service.

Frequent source

Written channels are considered a frequent source of misunderstanding. In writing, verbal elements such as body language and the emphasis of essential words and phrases are missing. In real conversation, close attention is paid to facial expressions and gestures for additional clues as to how what is said is actually meant.

In the workplace, misunderstandings often arise due to different levels of knowledge. While some employees already have detailed information about a new project, others hardly know anything about it. Information gaps increase the risk of misunderstandings.

5 tips to avoid misunderstandings

Misunderstandings can be avoided by clear statements. These five tips will help you to recognize the background of misunderstanding, communication and misjudgement and to optimize your way of communication.

  1. Avoid communication traps like pigeonholing
  2. Communicate directly and at eye level with your conversation partner
  3. Listen actively
  4. Ask questions to clarify the situation
  5. Avoid ambiguous word usage

Stereotyping is one of the worst communication traps, and one that encourages misunderstandings. Stereotypes give rise to prejudices, which in turn often lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of content. Objectivity helps to avoid such communication problems and thus reduce the risk of misunderstanding.

Direct communication

Direct communication consists of making statements as clear as possible and giving efficient information. As a manager and/or coach, it is your job to lead and guide people. By communicating directly and at eye level with your interlocutors, avoiding vague statements and inappropriate expressions, you ensure that no misunderstandings arise.

Active listening is one of the most important qualities to develop in the Coaching and in management are expected. Active listening is also important in the private sphere in order to understand what the partner actually wants to communicate. Sometimes a matter is complicated and therefore difficult to explain.

Not every employee has the rhetorical ability to describe difficult contexts unambiguously. This makes it all the more important to listen carefully and ask specific questions when necessary. This can clarify many things and avoid misunderstandings. If possible, refrain from using ambiguous words, anglicisms and foreign words. These are often misunderstood.

With goal-oriented and direct communication you reach your conversation partners and prevent misunderstandings.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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