How to Avoid Misunderstandings and Ensure Clear Communication in Your Relationships

I Never Said That!

How to Avoid Misunderstandings and Ensure Clear Communication in Your Relationshipsby Jacquie Wise

How many times do people around you assume you said something totally different to what you actually said?  Infuriating isn’t it?  Why can’t they listen properly? After all, what you said was quite clear! (Wasn’t it?)  The following keys to good communication will help you avoid misunderstandings and ensure clear communication.

In my interactions with clients, I can’t help noticing how many fights or failed relationships are caused by misunderstandings, be they at work, between friends, or with intimate partners.  It’s such a shame, because so many of them are avoidable.

Three Steps to Avoid Misunderstandings

The more important the message you intend to convey and the more emotion is packed into it, the more likely it will be misunderstood.  Here’s what to do when the conversation is crucial.

The three key steps for clear communication are: identify, clarify, specify.

The first step is to identify, in advance, not only areas of potential misunderstanding but also possible reactions to your message. You would not think of going to court or into mediation without meticulous preparation. Yet how much thought do you give to informal or more personal interactions with staff or family?

Key:  It comes down to making a list of ‘what-ifs’—what if they think I mean this instead of that, what if they react negatively, what if they jump to this conclusion, what if they say that… What is the most constructive way of dealing with it?

The second step is to clarify your intentions. Don’t assume the person can guess your motive.

As a coach and counsellor, I have learnt the value of explaining myself as I speak.  The more sensitive the situation, the greater the need to say the same message in a negative as well as a positive framework:

‘I don’t mean this, or this.  What I do mean is that.’
‘Please don’t think I am saying…what I am saying is…’

Both senders and receivers are equally responsible for explaining or asking for the reasons underlying viewpoints or actions.  (Preferably before they’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion!)

Key:     Take care with the word ‘why’.  It can too easily sound defensive or attacking.
Prefer instead to ask: ‘what are your reasons…?’

To ensure you’ve understood correctly, keep clarifying what you’ve heard:

‘I get the impression…am I right?’

The third step is to specify what has been happened, or is happening.  Prepare examples, in case the person has a different perception to yours.

Specify what is going to happen next.  That also means being specific about your expectations and what might happen if they’re not met.

Effective communication is built on rapport.  Even by applying these few strategies, you can easily improve your interactions and create the kind of rapport that will enhance your relationships.


I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here.

You can give me your feedback, ask a question by email or post a comment below.

If you or someone you know would like a personal consultation, please call +61 3 9690 8159.

Take charge of your life with Jacquie Wise.

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Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

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