How miscommunication happens (and how to avoid it)

Have you ever been in a situation where you cannot seem to make yourself understood, or where you could not understand the person with whom you are speaking? If so, you encountered a case of miscommunication. Defective communication between two – or more – persons can lead to confusion, or even conflict. Even when people speak the same language, understanding each other is not always easy due to the complexity of human communication. Thankfully, a few simple rules can help you avoid or tackle misunderstandings.

At first sight, communication is just the passing of a message from one person to another. But human interactions are not unidirectional. The sending of a message triggers feedbacks, reactions, and interpretations that are influenced by individual subjectivity (shaped by age, sex, education, and many other factors), which influences the meaning of the message. The environment or the number of persons participating in the exchange can also influence how a message is perceived. All of these interacting elements can often distort the message.

Here are a few simple habits that will allow you to communicate better in you daily interactions:

1- Be an active listener
2- Listen with more than just your ears
3- Take the time to understand others
4- Be conscious of your own filters

How miscommunication happens (and how to avoid it) – Katherine Hampsten – TED-Ed Originals

Learn more:

Do you have conversations with your teams?


Based on Talk, Inc. by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2012), Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All by Bernard T. Ferrari (Penguin 2012) and “Why I’m a listener: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer” (McKinsey Quarterly, April 2012) and on separate interviews with Polly Pearson, former VP of employment brand and strategy engagement, and Jonathan Martin, SVP of corporate marketing, EMC Corporation, October 2012.

Emmanuelle Meylan
Published by Emmanuelle Meylan