Let's Be Clear:
The Art of Avoiding Miscommunication
"Your lips are moving, I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing, but the words aren't clear...
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing over night"
-The Beatles ("I'm Looking Through You")
One of the primary causes of bad break-ups, or arguments in general, is the infamous destroyer: miscommunication. What is miscommunication exactly? "To communicate mistakenly, unclearly or inadequately" (Dictionary). Or, I might add, to not communicate a feeling or thought at all (this would be an "unspoken miscommunication"). So, how do you avoid miscommunication of any sort?
1. Give yourself the opportunity to be fully understood!
Just because you understand what you're saying (or writing), doesn't mean that the person this expression is directed at will. Each of our minds work in unique ways. This means that not every thought you express will be accessible or understandable to other people, however sure you are of its clarity.When you are trying to express yourself, ask yourself, "Is this understandable from an outside perspective?"
"Assume that your readers are intelligent, but do not assume that they know the subject matter as well as you
The amount of explaining you need to do depends upon how familiar your audience is with the topic. Explaining concepts is not insulting; it is helpful, as long as the explanations show that you respect the reader... when you write for general audiences, assume a general level of intelligence" (WebAIM).
That was advice given to writers-- now, apply it to your own personal relationships! Assume that the person you are speaking with knows nothing of your inner thoughts. Rather than speaking using minimal explanation, assuming, "Oh, he'll know what I mean," explain so that there is no room left to misinterpret.
2. Discuss any problems openly and right away (What I've always emphasized)
To avoid miscommunication, the moment someone says something that bothers you, rather than becoming inwardly furious or mulling it over for hours, simply ask, "When you said ____ it bothered me, can you explain what you meant?" Or, "When you said ______ it bothered me, did you really mean ____?" It's even more helpful if you add why it bothered you, so that it is clear what needs to be addressed. Most of the time, it's a matter of carelessness with wording and the allowance of clarification helps enormously.
3. Realize: It's Not All About You
David and Tanya have been dating for a couple months. Tanya is stressed; she has two molecular cell biology midterms on the same day, along with a 300 page reading due in her upper division history class. All that David sees, however, is Tanya's reaction to stress, which is less exuberance and more irritability. David takes this personally, assuming that their relationship is not satisfactory to Tanya. Now, STOP. It is so easy to create assumptions as to why a person acts a certain way. Don't do it! Make a conscious effort to remember the external influences affecting the person you're with. More than half the time he or she acts out? It has nothing to do with you or your relationship, and everything to do with that external influence, like Tanya's overload of schoolwork! Take the time to ask what is wrong, and give the person the benefit of the doubt.
4. Realize: Telepathy is Fiction
Back to David and Tanya! Tanya also plays a large part in this drama. David, as we saw earlier, cannot read Tanya's mind. It is Tanya's part to let David know what is going on in her life: "Sorry David, I know I've been irritable lately. I just want you to know it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with being stressed out about schoolwork." If the reason bothering Tanya was more personal, so personal she didn't want to talk about it, then the best way to address it would be for Tanya to say, "Listen, David, I know I've been irritable lately. I would rather not talk about what's bothering me, not because I don't trust you, but because it's extremely personal. What I really want you to know is that it truly has nothing to do with you or our relationship. I hope you can understand." Take the time to realize how your attitude affects people. Are you stressed with school? Tired after a long night? Annoyed because you stubbed your toe? Angry after a fight with a friend? Sad because a family member is sick? Whatever the reason, take the time to reassure the person you're with that it's not the relationship that's bothering you, but an external force.
It is easy to let miscommunications slide until there is no relationship left. With effort and practice, however, miscommunication will be just as easy to avoid. As you become more aware of how other's feel and of how you affect others, using the tips I suggested will become second nature and you will be able to kiss miscommunication (somewhat) goodbye.
"Miscommunicate." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 17 July 2012. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/miscommunicate?s=t>.
"Writing Clearly and Simply." WebAIM:. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2012. <http://webaim.org/techniques/writing/>.
Women in the World and Relationships Section, Sasha Martin:
I made my own major, concerning emotions explored through literature, art, cognitive science and psychology, and am minoring in creative writing at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and a contributing writer, and happen to be extremely proud of the staff Unleashed has developed. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.