Miscommunication is the norm

January 24, 2021
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I don’t understand you! It’s safe to assume that what you intend to communicate is not heard the same way by the recipient. This saves a lot of time but it’s hard to do it in practise.

The complexity is manifold. It requires clarity to express something simply and with minimum ambiguity. Even if your thoughts are clear the recipient does not share your life experience.

You write a lot between the lines when you’re expressing something. You bundle your impressions to the symbolic links we call words. They have many meanings.

Add cultural and generational differences and the mix is becoming so complex that it takes a supercomputer to keep up with the variants.

How about when you’re not thinking clearly, communicate in hurry or you have some misconception or ambivalence in your message?

In reality, we have some expectations, hopes, fears, cultural norms or behavioural patterns that smudge message further either in the receiving or sending end, often in both:  a real-life broken telephone.

Setting expectations, hoping to reach the deadlines or trying to decrypt the intentions from a few lines of words or video calls takes a lot of bandwidth. The guessing game is endless.

Yet, it’s useful but pointless at the same time. We never know what’s happening in the sender’s head or what their real intentions are. They can just have other priorities, distractions or life events that take precedent over your cause.

It’s easy to start to take offence and imagine things that have no base in reality when you’re waiting for a response. The higher the stakes the higher the pressure and the temptation is there to just end the uncertainty. It only takes a few words and one action to end it all.

Remote communication puts the noise level higher. Here’re a few things that might help:

1) Give the benefit of the doubt: assume that everything is done in good faith (unless proven in action otherwise).

2) Avoid quick gut reactions: before sending anything, consider is it constructive and does it progress towards your objective? If not, just venting or expressing your emotions may be best expressed at your end only.

3) Assume it’s not you: the world does not circle around you and people are mainly concerned about their own issues.

4) Be clear, concise and consistent: actions matter more than words. Show your trust and intentions with actions that align with your message.

 5) Communicate your concerns: assume that other people don’t know how you feel or what are your concerns. State them firmly but with kindness.