Everyday Concerns, Future Consequences Part 3: Miscommunication

Posted on 11/19/10 by erynwicker

Our third week of everyday concerns with future consequences explores the world of communication, or should I say miscommunication between partners, between friends, and in typical daily occurrences.

With that first sentence that you just read, consider the following questions: Did you understand what I meant? What did you perceive it to mean? How was my tone and my delivery? Was it honest, clear, and direct? Did you formulate a reply or response to it? Obviously written communication is an entirely different story than verbal communication, but you get my drift – there’s a lot to think about when we open our mouths to say something to someone, especially to someone we know and love.

As I mentioned the first week, wouldn’t it be nice if we always said what we meant, with the right tone and delivery, so the message was interpreted exactly as it was meant to be at the exactly right moment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen and our verbal and non-verbal information can be misconstrued and misperceived. It’s important for us to be aware, especially since as humans we tend to communicate on a daily basis in some form with others, of the warning signs and cues of miscommunication so that we can adapt and improve our style. Otherwise, communication problems can create unhealthy and maladaptive patterns and interactions that can become entrenched, complicated, and negatively impacting upon relationships.

Our own individual communication style is a reflection of our personalities, age, background, and lifestyles. Hence it will vary from person to person. Add to that that there are different types of communication such as verbal (utilizes the tools of speech and writing), nonverbal (occurs without words and uses body language, gestures, and facial expressions to convey meaning), and symbols (objects or actions that represent emotions, beliefs, or attractions). No wonder miscommunication occurs so easily and quickly.

Some signs of communication difficulties or ineffective communication include:

  • Feeling like no one understands what you are trying to say or feeling like you can never understand what is being said to you
  • Assuming  that people know what you are thinking or can read your mind
  • Saying one message with words but communicating something different with body language
  • Conversations becoming power struggles, forums for competitiveness or mutual depreciation
  • Passiveness or shyness which prevents a person from opening up and being honest
  • Antagonism where trying to defend yourself becomes more important that hearing what was said

Unfortunately, it’s easy to see how the above things could have negative consequences on the present and the future for the individuals and their relationships experiencing them. Poor or unhealthy communication can cause many problems, including but not excluded to:

  • Unhealthy relationships or relational problems
  • Relationship failure
  • Excessive conflict
  • Ineffective problem solving
  • Feelings of frustration and despair
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Weak emotional bonding
  • Increased stress
  • Social withdrawal or isolation

Communication is a two-way street – it requires being both a sender and a receiver of information related to feelings, thoughts, beliefs, actions, etc. Effective communication is about being there for someone, which is probably why it is a characteristic of strong and healthy relationships. However, the word miscommunication often conjures up thoughts in individual’s heads that they only need to improve their ability to speak. While developing that skill may be true for some, often the most valuable way to prevent relationship problems is to develop and enhance our listening skills.

There are many things that individuals can do to become better communicators, and in turn, enhance the quality of their relationships and their lives:

  • Communicate frequently – communicate your needs, wants, fears, thoughts on a daily basis and get creative in how to increase communication in today’s very busy world


  • Assume you will be misunderstood – it’s not as easy as we think to communicate clearly and directly, and since we can’t control that others will see things as we do we have to make sure to check it out with them
  • Be honest and avoid blame – state the facts as you perceive them, as objectively as you can, and say how you are feeling as a result but avoid language and tone that implies blame


  • Make allowances for our own filters – we each have our own view of the world that acts as a filter through which we perceive everything that happens in our lives, including our perception of what others are saying and what and how we say to others


  • Think about the person with whom you are communicating – not al individuals communicate at the same level so take into account age, maturity levels, context and make considerations


  • Learn to listen, actively listen – listening with intention and awareness so we are open to what is being said, without interruption, without justifying our position, and without formulating a response in our head while the other person is talking all the while making sure we acknowledge and validate their messages


  • Be positive – effective communication is primarily positive even when dealing with difficult situations so it’s important to verbally encourage and compliment one another


  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues – pay close attention to facial expressions and body language as they may be telling a different story
  • Remember the big picture – effective communication is a means to an end so try to remember the desired end result or the bigger picture and keep it forefront so that objectivity reigns and pettiness is pushed aside

If you or someone you know has any questions or would like help with their current communication style please contact a helping professional such as a registered psychologist or clinical counselor as they are trained to help guide you through the tools and exercises that make communicating more effective, efficient, and enjoyable.

Some resources that might provide further information and/or assistance are: Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict by J. Robinson, Why Can’t You Read My Mind? Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship by J. Bernstein & S. Magee , and Love Is Never Enough : How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings, Resolve Conflicts, and Solve Problems by A. T. Beck. Locally, Building Healthy Relationships Couples Communication Workshops are offered several weekends a year – please contact the Ann Davis Transition Society to register: 604.792.2760 or www.anndavis.org.