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Misunderstanding is one of the main reasons of disruptions in relationships, be it between spouses, partners, friends, and at workplace or in the market. However, if you understand what misunderstanding actually is and how it arises, you can learn to avoid it. And relationships without misunderstandings give you a peace of mind and more happiness in life. Here is everything about how to avoid misunderstanding that you should know. ~ Ed.
Have you ever tried to avoid misunderstandings from taking place?
Well, for that matter, with anybody, like your husband, wife, family members, or even friends and colleagues at office or your work place.
Don’t tell me you never had any misunderstandings with anyone! Misunderstandings are so disturbing and common.
They tend to unbalance you by getting into your head before you even know what’s happened!
And they cause such havoc, throwing the most reliable relationship off-balance. Sometimes misunderstandings even cause you to scrap your most sentimental relationship in a jiffy.
There are two aspects of misunderstanding; to be misunderstood, or to misunderstand. In this post, I’ll mostly consider only the latter.
What is Misunderstanding
There’s nothing right about a misunderstanding. It is an error, for which you can blame yourself or the other person, though we generally do the latter.
Simply put, misunderstanding is a failure to understand something or someone correctly. It can also be a disagreement or quarrel.
However, basically it is a misapprehension, misconception, an illusion or distortion of the reality. Misunderstanding is a false impression that is created in your mind.
If you take something in the wrong sense or understand it wrongly, it is misunderstanding, whether it is about the words, actions, or behavior.
A misunderstanding can occur with or without any communication. The medium of communication can be a typical letter on paper, audio, face-to-face chat, video chat, or even a type chat on the computer or a mobile.
Even abstaining yourself from communication could lead to the development of misunderstanding. However, misunderstanding is generally miscommunication, and not the lack of communication.
Misunderstanding can happen to both or all the parties that involve in a relationship. Or it can be a one-side misunderstanding. Whatever be the case, one can always avoid misunderstandings.
“Clear up any misunderstanding before it gets to that point.” – Joel Miller
How Does Misunderstanding Affect Relationships
Misunderstandings have a deep and immediate impact on the state of your relationship. And keeping the misunderstandings at bay avoids conflicts.
Do you agree?
Okay. I’m sure most of you must have experienced or witnessed fights and breakups. And you realize that they happen due to small and silly misunderstandings, don’t they?
A miscommunication between lovers could make one think that the other is being unfaithful. And the boyfriend would find how to track a cheating girlfriend and create a rift of misunderstanding between them.
Wrong ideas creep in like little creatures or worms to breed and grow in our minds. They only tend to infect us with delusions, negative thoughts, doubts, and suspicions.
I read somewhere that the Native Americans even had a name for this phenomenon. They called it “Wetiko” – a worm like mind-parasite that changes the mental perspective of a person.
Is misunderstanding really about your distorted perspective, perceptions, and presumptions?
You can best try to avoid misunderstanding by analyzing what a misunderstanding is and why it happens. And how you can prevent these small mistakes or confusion to hijack your relationship.
If you ever did try to avoid misunderstanding with others from taking place, you would know how it helps to keep your relationships healthy.
“Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding.” ~ Andre Gide
Why Does a Misunderstanding Happen
Misunderstandings can occur when you –
- Interpret the words wrongly in contrast to what the other person really conveys.
- Fail to understand something correctly because it was not conveyed in the right way, or you didn’t receive it in the way it was conveyed.
- Are not in the same state of mind or mood as that of the one conveying the thoughts.
- Already have different set notions in your mind that force you to make biased misinterpretation of information.
- Apply past behavior and experiences, use that as a reference, and conclude your opinion on that basis – even if it isn’t the case.
- Are under the influence of other people, thoughts, or events. These can change your perception, and you fail to see the clear or correct picture.
- Mistrust the other person, have feelings of envy, or lack self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Incorrectly assess people and situations.
- Don’t get your preconceived expected response, which upsets you.
- Start assuming the negative reasons when there’s a delay in response from the other person.
- Don’t clearly understand the context of the matter.
- Flow with your pent-up emotions, and get carried away without trying to understand the other person.
These are plenty of reasons to know how to avoid misunderstanding from taking place.
Misunderstanding happens mostly because you just assume certain things and facts.
You make assumptions that probably have no justifying reasons. In this way, a misunderstanding is more about your projection of attitude, rather than a communication problem.
Your mind tries to complete a half picture into a complete one. This is based on the information previously stored in your mind and the subconscious, or based on what is perceived through the biased mind.
The resulting understanding is not correct, and you should avoid that.
“It is better to understand little than to misunderstand a lot.” ~ Anatole France
Misunderstanding in the Virtual World
Misunderstandings happen often in our daily life, and more so in the virtual world. It is because the communication through messaging, type chats, and emails miss two crucial elements.
One, the visual cue or signs that add clarity to conversations. Not that communication having visual cues is devoid of misunderstanding, but it reduces a lot of your guessing work.
Second, the tone used in the messages or the letter. We sometimes assume a negative tone or sarcasm in the message, even if the other person did not intend it that way.
Sometimes, the sender of the messages is not able to express clearly and completely through the short and brief texts. This often forces you to make presumptions.
Presumptions may lead to miscommunication. That is why face-to-face conversations are best. However, video and audio chats are better than type chats and emails in that respect.
“Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” ~ Miguel Angel Ruiz
Here’s a TED talk from Stan Tatkin giving you the information about why relationships are hard. Though it’s about the misunderstanding between partners specifically, but the information holds good for all other forms of relationships too.
Relationships Are Hard, But Why? | Stan Tatkin | TEDxKC ~ YouTube Video
How to Avoid Misunderstanding Others
The solution to avoid misunderstanding in my opinion is complete communication and correct perception.
Mostly, the misunderstandings happen due to miscommunication, lack of communication, difference of opinions, unlike-mindedness, and the ways of thinking.
There are many suggested ways to avoid misunderstanding in any kind of relationship – it could be within friendship, marriage, family, official or any other.
I believe LOVE helps me prevent misunderstanding from taking place.
Well, yes love really is powerful. Love and compassion can help you in any situation, and help clear misunderstandings too.
However, the LOVE I use here is my coined acronym. It stands for –
L – Listen
O – Observe
V – Verify
E – Evaluate
These are steps to avoid misunderstandings. I’ll explain it in simple words.
STEP 1 – LISTEN
Listen intently. Be completely attentive. Most misunderstandings happen because we don’t listen fully to what is being said.
For text contents like emails, carefully read every word.
The reason being, if we have other thoughts in our mind, they can disturb and disable us to completely or correctly understand what the other person really wants to convey.
And, sometimes there’s more to what is being said. You need to understand the hidden real meaning behind the words.
STEP 2 – OBSERVE
Observe carefully. Ensure you don’t miss any visual cue that can add to the information conveyed and make it complete.
Watch how you convey your words. Sometimes things sound bad but they look fine, and vice versa.
Try to know the intent of the person through these cues. The intent is generally more important than the content.
We often get upset by the tone used, and presume it is being used sarcastically, even though if it wasn’t Keep your mind open and clear, and don’t make presumptions.
STEP 3 – VERIFY
Verify your thoughts before you give them the right to influence you.
You should clarify your doubts, if any, there and then. Do this before the worm of misunderstanding gets the chance to sneak in and breed in your mind.
Verify if the body language of the person, facial expressions, and other factors go with what is being conveyed, and the way you perceive it.
Try to confirm if the perception formed in your mind correctly relates to the cues presented. Resist the temptation to react.
STEP 4 – EVALUATE
Evaluate your observations and verify. Find out if what the other person is conveying is the same or different from what you understood.
If what you perceive isn’t in agreement with what the other person is saying, then you need to know that this could lead to misunderstanding.
It is then better to frankly speak you mind, and ask for a clarification.
Have patience. Give time and opportunity to the other person to explain. Have discussions if possible, before jumping to conclusions, reacting, and making a hue and cry!
Even if you do so, let the other person know the exact reason for your reactions.
“When there’s a misunderstanding, one must make a compromise. This word is not a bad word.” ~ Nicolas Sarkozy
Short Tips to Avoid Being Misunderstood
- Think before you speak.
- Carefully choose your words, and avoid ambiguous ones.
- Frame your sentences well, and always check the tone.
- Appropriately use emoticons like smileys, exclamatory signs, or expressive abbreviations like LOL.- while texting or SMS, and in your chats.
- Consider cultural differences because same words might be used in different contexts.
- Express clearly and completely, and convey the right meaning.
- Prefer face-to-face conversations.
- Always reply promptly because silence breeds misunderstanding.
- Communicate effectively.
“We are infected by our own misunderstanding of how our own minds work.” ~ Kevin Kelly
You never know when you’ll get another chance to clear up your doubts, so do it there and then. Don’t give the seed of misunderstanding any time to take root in your mind.
Because later when the misunderstanding grows as time elapses, the ego factor builds its wall between you and the person you’ve a misunderstanding with.
In such cases, it has been observed that people don’t even talk to each other for hours, days, months, years, or even decades. And eventually they lose interest in renewing their relationship.
Wrapping It Up
Remember, life is short. You never know what’s in store tomorrow. Therefore, clear up issues now, and don’t keep such important matters pending.
Don’t keep any place for misunderstanding in your mind. Always try to avoid misunderstanding others, wherever possible.
Communication is an important factor to avoid misunderstanding. So, make sure to communicate often and regularly with those who matter to you.
“Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood” ~ Lionel Trilling
Over to you
Did you ever misunderstand anyone or have the experience of being misunderstood? What were the reasons? How do you try to avoid misunderstanding others? Share in the comments below.