3 Examples of Miscommunication Mistakes and Ways to Improve

Scenario #1:  Husband calls home to tell wife about a stop after work:

Husband calls wife to let her know that he is stopping by a friend’s house after work. Husband: “Hi Hon, I am going to stop by Jay’s house on the way home from work tonight but I won’t be late”. Miscommunication problem: Wife interprets “won’t be late” to mean he will only stop for a few minutes and be home around his usual time. Husband meant: he would be stopping at friends and will not be home really late at night like 11 pm or midnight. A total miscommunication. This problem could have been solved by adding some additional details: Example (“I am going to stop by Jay’s house after work and plan to stay two to three hours. I should be home between 8 or 8:30 PM. If I am going to be later than that I will call you”). Note: the Details (2 to 3 hours), Specific Example (I should be home around 8 or 8:30 PM) and Respect (I will call you if it is going to be later than that).  Summarize: Wife: “So after work, you will be going to Jay’s house until about 8:30 PM or call to let me know you are running late.”

Scenario #2:  Friend calls with an Invitation.

Joe calls his friend John to invite him over for the 4th of July. John says, “I don’t have a calendar and I am going out of town for the weekend but if the 4th of July is on Monday (that is when businesses were going to be closed) then we are coming back Monday morning and can come over”. Joe says, “Great….see you for the 4th of July”. No one checks the calendar. The 4th of July is on Sunday”. John comes back Monday morning and calls Joe about coming over that night but Joe is very angry because John didn’t come the evening of July 4th.  Miscommunication Tip: Do not make specific plans if you do not have all the specific details. One of these people should have said, “Let me check the calendar and make sure what day the 4th of July will land on and I will get back to you” This conversation was missing the Detail that the 4th of July would be on Sunday. Then John could have said,” I can’t make it Sunday for the 4th because we will be out-of-town but we could celebrate it with you on Monday night the 5th of July. This conversation needed details and specific examples.

Scenario #3: Teen tries to get Mom to understand her.

Teen is upset with Mom. Teen shares personal details about her life like problems with a boyfriend that she wants Mom to keep between them. But Mom often shares these stories with boyfriend and best friend. Teen gets angry at Mom and says “I can never trust you”.  Mom gets angry back and says, “I am the one person in this world you can trust. I have always been here for you. I have always provided you with food in your belly, clothes on your back and a clean place to live”. Miscommunication tip:  In this case, the word trust is too broad. You can trust someone over many things. The teen could trust her Mom to be there for her and provide food, clothing and shelter. There was just one area that she didn’t feel she could trust her Mom and that was to keep her personal secrets between them. The teen wanted to be able to talk to her Mom about her difficulties or issues without Mom sharing them with anyone else. Instead the teen could have tried saying, “Mom, I want to tell you about the struggles I am having with my boyfriend but I need you to keep it just between us. Please do not tell your boyfriend, best friend or anyone else. (Specific details and examples) I want to be able to trust you to keep my personal issues private” (This last sentence points out what aspect of trust the teen wants from Mom). Mom could even make sure she knows what facts her daughter wants to keep private by saying, “I need you to tell me what things you do not want me to share so I don’t misunderstand what you consider private. Please, if you don’t want me to share something, tell me that you want me to keep these details private (example of how to let Mom know this should be private and Mom showing respect to daughter). Summarize: Daughter, “OK, Mom. In the future, if I share with you something I want you to keep private, I will point it out to you”.

Learn from these examples to improve your Communication Methods.

I hope these scenarios gave you insight into how to change your communication wording so that you can get your exact point across. Remember to add details, specific words, respect, examples and summarize content throughout your conversations. This method will really reduce the amount of miscommunication and misunderstanding in your conversations with others.

Words are only a part of communication. A good communicator must also notice their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.  For example, if your facial expression looks bored the person isn’t going to feel that you care about what they are saying. If you keep looking away or don’t look into the person’s eyes, they may think you are not paying attention. I once had a client who felt anxious looking into someone’s eyes and had to normally look off to the left. I told the person they need to share with the people close to him that he doesn’t feel comfortable looking into someone’s eyes and this does not mean he doesn’t care. Finally, tone of voice…..you can’t say “I love you” in an angry voice and expect to be believed.  The other person may think…..this person is angry with me and is only saying this because they think it is what I want to hear. So become aware of your tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to make sure they fit what you are trying to convey.  These examples should help you really improve your communication skills.

The six main methods of miscommunication prevention are:

Add very specific terms, include details (place, time, dates, terms and amounts), show respect for the other person, give explicit examples of what you mean, notice your body language so it conveys the correct message and then summarize the content of your conversation.   With these new communication skills, your conversations should be clear, concise and easily understood by others.