Column: Three steps to reduce misunderstandings Commentary by Jack Klemeyer


Nearly every prospect and client I talk with has experienced a situation where they were certain they had communicated something clearly, only to discover, at the wrong time, that the reality was that they hadn’t communicated what they intended to at all. Perhaps this has happened to you, too. If it has, you know how frustrating it is.

Just so you know, the person you attempted to communicate with is just as frustrated, if not more so. After all, miscommunications can potentially put their job or position at risk.

How miscommunication happens

When we begin to tell someone something, we have no idea what that person is dealing with in their job, their family life and all other aspects of their life. That is the point from which they take in information.

In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey tells about a young father who clamors aboard a subway car in the early morning hours when the train is packed with commuters. The young father has with him several rambunctious children. After a short time, a fellow passenger tells the father to control his children. The father, as if wakened from a trance, explains that they have just come from the hospital where his wife and the children’s mother has just died. He further explained that neither he nor the children knows quite how to behave.

Scenarios (albeit not as emotionally packed as the man and his children on the train) play out every day in people’s lives; that includes at home, in the workplace, and other public venues. The point is that we never know what the person standing next to us is dealing with in life.

How to prevent miscommunication

What we can do, to mitigate miscommunication, is to follow these three steps:

  • Make sure now is a good time to talk.
  • Engage as many senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory and olfactory) as possible as you share your request.
  • Have the person you are talking with recap the communication to check for efficacy.

Be intentional about communication, and remember that it’s highly probable that what you’re saying may not be what is being heard. It’s your responsibility to make sure communication happens. Like George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”


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