Guidelines to Avoid Misunderstandings

Confusion and misunderstanding has been a prevalent theme in many conversations that I’ve had lately and apparently I’m not the only one experiencing the increase of misunderstandings. I even thought, it must be mercury retrograde time! (side note: just looked it up and turns out that Mercury stations retrograde Oct 4-26).

All these misunderstandings have incited an interest in communication and how easily disconnected communication can lead to misunderstanding. Unintentionally, I ended up at an event that further led me down the examination of misunderstandings.

I went to a contemporary dance performance that explored the concept of vanity through movement.

The particular dance group is known for its eccentric approach to contemporary dance. It was a playful performance, but quickly hit a serious tone when it explored the multiple motivations behind vanity. Of particular significance for this post is the was in which the dance pointed to misunderstanding. In this case, the misunderstanding was in mistaking vanity for need – a need to be seen, accepted, and loved.

Sometimes when we enter into an emotionally charged conversation we have already created a story in our mind as to how that conversation will play out. We have rehearsed the worst and best case scenarios and when the conversation actually occurs we look for cues to align what the person is saying with our made up version.

When this happens, we aren’t really listening to the other person. We are hearing words and internalizing them and are left with little room to concentrate on what the other person is trying to communicate to us.

After a misunderstanding, it becomes more difficult to rectify the situation and clarify, especially when someone has been hurt in the process.

With this in mind, I’ve adopted three main guidelines to assist me with clear communication:

  • Only engaging in emotionally exhausting conversations when I have the space and state to receive the conversation, instead of rushing to ‘get out of the way.’
  • Remaining present throughout the conversation, instead of letting my mind wander off to how this will impact the future and missing half of the conversation that is taking place in that moment.
  • Asking the person that I’m talking with to clarify when there is still doubt as to what they are trying to communicate to me, instead of filling the gaps afterwards on my own.

These appear to be such simple guidelines, yet so many of us do not practice them.

What has helped you avoid and deal with misunderstandings?


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