What are some misunderstandings about German history

Misunderstandings in Communication - 8 Causes and Antidotes


From the moment our ancestors made their first grunts, misunderstandings in communication are a part of our daily life.

A customer misinterprets a policy, a colleague misinterprets a task, a couple clashes over a misunderstanding about who should have picked up the child.

One would think that misunderstandings would decrease as technology advances. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are more connected than ever, but we are not getting any closer to mutual understanding.

We do not need more Communication, we need better ones Communication.

The first step in the right direction is to understand at what point things went wrong. Here are 8 common and preventable causes of miscommunication.

Implicit vs. explicit

Sometimes we mean exactly what we say. " Please give me a cookie ”. But sometimes our explicit message doesn't quite align with our intention. " Can you give me the cookie ” “ Yes i could ”Replies my sister as she grabs it and eats it herself.

Simple messages can be full of subliminal meaning. " Enjoy the biscuit ”Could be a neutral message. But I could also put it in a way that makes my sister feel guilty, or that she's wondering if this cookie contains a special ingredient that she didn't know about.

Miscommunication often arises from a misalignment of explicit and implicit meaning between sender and recipient. Some people communicate directly; others expect you to read between the lines.

By making your messages explicit, you avoid misunderstandings. This is especially useful in high-risk situations or when you don't know the other person well. For example, if you're dealing with a new customer, you'd better keep things explicit.

There is a tension between politeness and directness. To make questions or instructions more polite, we'll wrap them in a more indirect language. " give me your telephone number ", becomes " Would you mind giving me your phone number? ”.

You couldn't skip this process entirely, but knowing its implications will help. Also, people tend to speak more implicitly when they know each other better.

Written vs. oral

The deliverer of the message or the medium is another common cause of miscommunication. Verbal channels like the telephone or answering machine are better conveyors for implicit messages, while written channels like e-mail or live chat are better suited for explicit communication.

There are endless ways to use the word " No ”To pronounce. In written communication, the interpretation is completely left to the recipient, which can easily lead to misunderstandings.

The advantages of written communication, on the other hand, lie in its ability to search and save. You have to rely less on the concentration and memory of your listener, as he can easily read what has been written down.

What is written is prone to implicit misunderstandings and what is said is prone to explicit misunderstandings.

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Emojis are a tool to limit the risk in correspondence. Emily Triplett from Helpscout wrote a post on how emojis and exclamation marks can make your email appear friendlier.

You can also prevent misunderstandings with the right communication techniques. If you follow certain structures, for example, this increases the processing speed of your counterpart.

Negativity effect

This is our tendency to interpret information negatively when there is ambiguity.

When you walk into a dark room, don't imagine stumbling upon a pot of gold - you imagine a killer clown waiting for you under the bed. That's why movie monsters, like the ones in Stranger Things , scariest when hidden. No special effects can surpass our terrible fantasies.

The negativity effect is also one of the main causes of misunderstandings in communication. If several interpretations are possible, we will orientate ourselves on the most negative. Your friend has “seen” your last message but has not yet replied? He's probably too busy cheating on you.

The tendency towards negative interpretation is particularly prevalent in written channels, since the recipient has to read out the implicit part of the statement. Gregory Ciotti recommends in his tips on Remote working which often depends heavily on communication via chat tools, always assuming miscommunication instead of malice.

If you are the sender, always keep the negativity effect in mind and add a positive emoji if your messages could be misinterpreted.

Bad listening skills

In his Ted Talk, Julian Treasure argues that we are increasingly losing our ability to listen. Our apps have brought us into a state of constant distraction, our headphones envelop us in a private sound bubble.

Indeed, many of today's misconceptions can be traced back to the recipient's inability to concentrate. If you want to improve your listening skills, Treasure offers a few exercises:

Bad language skills

Misunderstandings in communication can also often be traced back to poor language skills. Some people express themselves so incoherently that it is almost impossible to follow them.

A good piece of advice is to speak in a structured manner: for example with the help of the WhatWhyWhat now -Approach. Start by thinking about that What to speak. After that about Why it is relevant. Then, what now the next steps should be.

This is Timoor. He's a huge basketball fan, just like you. Let me introduce him to you

In another lecture, Julian Treasure gives some tips on how to speak in a way that others will listen to you:

Also take a look at his book How to be Heard: Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening .

Misdirected vocabulary

Another common cause of miscommunication. In order to increase efficiency, people develop their own way of speaking within a closed group - using technical jargon, acronyms, keywords, etc.

“Legal language” is another culprit. It is the formal and technical language that often makes government documents sound overly complex and forces people to hire attorneys for their legal affairs.

These verbal phenomena are not a problem as long as you are in your circle. However, when you interact with outsiders, you have to adapt.

Tricky Words

That source of misunderstanding lies between speaking and listening. The words are often used incorrectly or sound similar to other words so they are misinterpreted.

It's best to avoid them altogether. If someone else is using them, ask them for clarification. Many misunderstandings could be prevented if people had the courage to admit they didn't understand.

Some examples:

  • Sisyphus - syphilis
  • euphemistic - euphoric
  • Stadium - stadium
  • Censorship - caesura
  • Effect - affect

Mental models

The above causes of misunderstandings are an actual misinterpretation of the explicit / implicit meaning of the message. But there is another type of miscommunication - one in which people understand the meaning but still cannot come to a common denominator.

Such a misunderstanding arises from divergent mental models. A different understanding of the meaning of the message.

It would be nice if we all perceive the world in the same way. But we don't do that. In your book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains Sharon Morgen that our brains erase, misinterpret and misinterpret, depending on filtering tendencies, triggers, assumptions, beliefs, habits and mental models.

Indeed, there is an ongoing epistemological discussion among intellectuals about whether objective reality even exists. We will not come to a solution here, but this fact alone confirms the importance of mental models.

Some types of mental models and the reinforcement of mental prejudices contribute to misunderstandings in our world:

(Sub) cultures. People shape cultures to give meaning to reality. Everyone is part of different cultures and subcultures, all of which influence the way we look at things and the paradigms by which we live.

Someone with a socialist mindset may have a more pessimistic view of corporate intentions than someone who believes in the invisible hand of the market.

And what sounds good in one language sounds rude in another. For example, the standard Spanish speaking style is more direct than English. “Give me the key” sounds bossy in English without adding a “please”. In Spanish, however, “dame la llave” is polite enough.

Confirmation failure . This cognitive bias is responsible for our tendency to focus only on what is consistent with our existing worldview.

The internet has made it easier than ever to stick to groupthink. We look for newspaper articles and online friends who share our opinion. Digital filter bubbles offer the space to express your own opinion and to find immediate confirmation.

Story bias . Since the invention of the campfire, people have told each other stories. We are more inclined to believe a statement when it is told as a beautiful, emotional story - especially when it fits our worldview.

If you are convinced that companies are always out to rip you off, you will find enough evidence of it in the paper. If you believe that companies' interests in general are aligned with their happy customers, you will find plenty of evidence to support that statement as well.

In the following podcast, Zeynep Tufekci explains how the algorithms behind our social media platforms ensure that we are only presented with messages that confirm our story.

Both the optimist and the pessimist will be proved right in some cases. But your story will affect how you interpret reality - in a sales pitch, for example.

Déformation Professionnell . Or as Marc Twain put it: " If your only tool is a hammer, all of your problems will be nails . ” Most of us are specialists, and our areas of expertise are based on our subjects or our job responsibilities.

Each specialization acts as a lens through which we interpret the world - whether it is business, sociology, or feminism. That makes it difficult to talk about topics from the same perspective.

"The man who spends his whole life doing simple work steps (...) will generally be as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being."

Adam Smith

A hammer and screwdriver will have a hard time arguing about how to open a wine bottle. For a better understanding we need a Swiss Army Knife.

Backfire effect . This effect caused by The oatmeal Brilliantly illustrated is an extreme form of confirmation error. It occurs when evidence that contradicts a person's beliefs against them make it even stronger . This happens because a lot of our opinions are based not on reason but on emotion.

The means of undermining the various mental models are less straightforward, but they can be helpful:

awareness . When you meet someone whose opinion is very different from your own, try to objectively expose the areas where your mental models differ and where they overlap.

Don't take it as a competition . Most discussions revolve around the question who is right , and not about what the truth is . Guide the discussion to view it as a clash of different thoughts that will bring the panelists closer to the general truth.

Make reference to your counterpart . As Olga Khazan of The Atlantic describes in the video below, we often try to convince people with arguments that correspond to our own values, but not theirs.

Stahlmann arguments . This communication technique is the opposite of the straw man arguments - the practice of summarizing the other person's argument in such a way that it is presented worse. With Stahlmann arguments you summarize the other's argument in a beneficial way - perhaps even more favorably than the person you were talking to did.

"[Stahlmann arguments] make us better rationalists, better speakers and better people."

Chana Messinger

Expand your mental models . Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's business partner, has purposefully expanded the number of mental models during his lifetime - from accounting to architecture, biology, economics, philosophy, physics and more. Expanding your mental models enables you to shed light on the causes of problems from different perspectives.

“Mental models, as Charlie puts it, are the guiding principles of every department. Every idea is a concept (or model) of how the world really works that can be used to understand and solve real problems and predict real outcomes. "

Andrew McVagh

We can't all be like Charlie Munger. But we can take a little time to fathom different paradigms and act more like a Swiss Army knife.

Leave the comfort zone . It doesn't feel good to come across information that clashes with one's worldview. Feel the urge to reject this cognitive dissonance, accept the discomfort, and take a step forward.

Stop identifying with your ideas . We tend to see our ideas as extensions of ourselves. When our ideas are criticized, we defend them with passion. That makes it hard to let go, hard to learn from. Let go of your ideas.

"Not taking ideas personally becomes easier with the meta-belief that holding onto certain beliefs doesn't make you a better person."

Peter Boghossian

Give people time . Even if you no longer identify yourself with your ideas, others will. So don't expect to be able to change your mind in a day. Let your ideas flow: in time, people will find the logic in your argument.

This article was originally written by Pascal van Opzeeland and translated into German by Mara Küsters .