4 Message-Muddling Communication Myths

Our gut instincts are usually pretty on target, but these common assumptions can get us into trouble when it comes to communication.

1. What I heard is exactly what you meant

You can’t assume that just because you said, emailed, texted, or smoke-signaled something to someone, that they got the message. Ask a question that brings the other person into the conversation so you’re engaging them instead of talking at them. This allows you to confirm that they heard (and understood) your message.

If you’re the listener, take the initiative to ask clarifying questions, like “So you’re saying_______,” or “Does that mean we need to_________,” to keep each other on the same page.

2. Silence during a conversation is bad

Pauses in the middle of a conversation can get a little awkward. We don’t like to wait for an answer, and our gut instinct is to fill the dead air, even if it’s with inconsequential babbling. Don’t be too hasty to start yapping. The other person might be processing, problem-solving, or connecting the dots, and they need you to respect the silence while they think.

Fun fact: Eastern cultures tend to value silence to add emphasis to words and thoughts while European and American cultures are less comfortable with silence or conversational pauses.

3. You communicate just like me

The truth is that no one communicates exactly the same as you. We have a communication questionnaire that we like to use for some of our classes, and we’ve never had two people in the room get the same results. For instance, it’s not fair of me to expect that you like to text as much as I do, just like it’s not fair of you to assume that I love email as much as you. I’m willing to meet you in the middle, but you have to understand and respect that it might be a little tricky.

4. Message matters more than medium

The way you communicate a message matters–whether it’s your chosen mode of communication, or the way you word/say/present something. If you don’t put as much thought into how you share a message as you invest in the message itself, chances are someone will miss it or it will become misinterpreted. Get in the habit of checking your tone and nonverbals–even in texts and emails. . Tiny nuances have a huge impact on how your message goes over. Take, for example, “Congratulations.” vs. “Congratulations!” Same words, different meaning. Which one would you believe more? What does the first one convey that the second doesn’t and vice versa?

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