Dealing with Misunderstandings

Author: Raju Thomas

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Misunderstandings are happenings which can play havoc in a relationship, and may even result in some irreparable consequences. People tend to perceive everything coming from outside through the filter of their personalities or as per the pattern of their belief systems programmed in their minds. This includes interactions and inter personal communications which can sometimes create misunderstandings. There is always a gap, however small, between what one person says, and what the listener takes it to mean. There can be a number of reasons for this. It is not only because of the literal meaning of the spoken words, but can also be due to the manner in which it is said. The same sentence can have different meanings depending upon the tone in which it is said. For example a simple question like “ What do you mean by that ? “ can either be a question expressing a genuine doubt, or an angry retort, depending on the tone in which it is conveyed, and also the accompanying body language.

Misunderstandings in inter personal communications can be due to a number of factors, such as :

  • Having a biased view or a preconceived notion about one another
  • Not listening to each other with full attention and with an open mind
  • Jumping to conclusions without considering all the factors involved
  • Tending to generalize based on an earlier interaction

While it is easy to fall into the trap of misunderstandings, it can also be prevented with a little care and mindful attention to the factors mentioned above. When one is not very clear about what is being said, it is advisable to ask for a confirmation by the listener reframing the speaker’s words. Sometimes something which is unsaid may be as important, if not more, as the spoken words. The listener could then try to read the thoughts or at least try to guess what is going on in the mind of the speaker. Of course, one should always respond only after letting the speaker complete whatever is being conveyed, instead of just reacting without understanding the real meaning of the words. Sometimes they may not agree with whatever is under discussion. But both the parties can then agree to disagree without any ill will or rancour to one another. There will be much less chance of any misunderstandings if we follow what I can call as the HAIL approach, that is , cultivating a spirit of Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love, in our interactions.

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