It’s amazing how often we say or do something and another person misinterprets it. It happens so often, we are not even aware of it. Getting on the same page is a lot more difficult than you think.
Just consider – recently a group of us were invited to a restaurant’s grand opening. Our waitress explained to us that the evening’s agenda included a food show, offered free tastings of their menu AND an “open bar”. We asked her to clarify what exactly “open bar” meant, where she proceeded to tell us that every drink available at the bar, we could have it!! This was music to our ears! Needless to say controversy ensued when it was time to leave!
Meaning isn’t really in words or actions. Meaning is really in people and the way they perceive and interpret what goes on around them. We filter it through our own plethora of emotions, memories, thoughts, and experiences, giving it meaning oftentimes without even being aware that is what we are doing.
In our case at the restaurant our group assumed that “open bar” has a universal meaning of free drinks!!!! However, our waitress, who was raised in another culture, her understanding use of the the term “open bar” is “we have a full bar tonight.” Our waitress thought she communicated one thing, we thought another.
How then do we fix the problem of miscommunication? For starters, do not assume. This is the most common presumption people tend to make. And it is the most costly and disastrous one as well. Use that old adage that states trust but verify. Check in with the person that they understood you and you understood them. Unless you say something, you usually cannot be entirely sure the other person knows what you’re thinking, feeling, or whatever. Remember you need to take some responsibility too in any meaningful communication.
By following that one simple tip – Do Not Assume – you will minimize the possibility of miscommunication.