That’s Not What I Said! – Communication challenges

 In Communication, Relationships

Have you ever been upset or frustrated with someone only to find out later that it was because you had totally misunderstood what they had said? A couple of weeks ago my husband told me he was going to go for a walk. We both love to go for walks in the morning, but since our daughter was still sleeping, only one of us could go. Several minutes later, he still hadn’t left. Why was he wasting so much time? I finally said “When are you going to leave? I could have gone and been back already.” It turns out I misunderstood him. He had asked me if I wanted to go for a walk that morning but I thought he said he wanted to go.

One of the major challenges with our relationships, at work and at home, is having healthy and successful communication. It’s easy to forget that it doesn’t matter what we say; it only matters what the other person thinks we meant. This can be tricky because we don’t actually “hear” what others say, we “interpret” what we think they said. The accuracy of our interpretation depends on many things such as what we expect the other person to say, our mood, our personality, their tone and body language, and differences in our communication styles. If we find someone unexpectedly getting upset with us over something we said, we should check in and ask what they “heard.” OR if someone says something to us that seems unreasonable, we should ask for clarification.

I try to remember that good communication is more than the words I say, it is making sure the other person understands what I meant.


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.

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