Miscommunication, Misunderstanding or Misinterpretation?

Lately I’ve had a lot of people telling me about their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and on their blogs. People unfollowing, sending or posting insulting or aggressive messages or comments.

When I listen to people tell me about their experiences, most of the time, after they talk me through the events leading up to the messages or unfollows it’s usually based around a miscommunication, misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

Let’s look at the definitions of these words. Refer to Dictionary.com Miscommunication: to communicate mistakenly, unclearly, or inadequately. Refer to Dictionary.com Misunderstanding: failure to understand correctly; mistake as to meaning or intent. Refer to Dictionary.com Misinterpretation: to interpret, explain, or understand incorrectly.


When communication is delivered and interpreted correctly it can be a brilliant experience.  However, I’m fairly sure there’s not a person on Earth that hasn’t misunderstood some form of communication.

There are indeed components to communication. People don’t always realise that in the grand scheme of effective communication there are rules, some of these rules are learned through experience. Some rules can be informal or formal.  Other rules can be as simple as social guidelines or may develop from a particular event or setting.

Today we are communicating more than ever before with people from all over the world. Facebook is a classic example of how the power of technology has changed the way we communicate. But, here’s the thing. We lose some of the necessary components for effective communication when we communicate via these social platforms.

When we are communicating with  someone in person, most of us have all sensory fields open to us, we can see, hear and smell them, provided there are no barriers from the environment, physical, individual perceptions, cultural or language. So even with the person close to us there still can be misunderstandings with person to person communication because of these communication barriers.  There’s no doubt about it, communication can be complex. We humans use many non-sensory things to understand communication, our beliefs, attitudes, thoughts and feelings are also part of our decoding and understanding of information. Which of course means our implied communication may not be the same as the person receiving the message or communication.

So from a behavioural response pov (being negative, aggressive or abusive responses) there could be so much more involved on the receiving side of the communication. None of us truly know what people are thinking or experiencing at the time we comment on Facebook, tweet something or post on a blog.

So ask yourself  Is what he or she saying unclear to you?  Are you using an assumption to understand what they are communicating? Should a person ask what another person is trying to communicate in a polite and humble manner? In my opinion it never hurts to ask if the communication is unclear to you.

It is after all possible for people to mistake  the intended message of communication for something else. Why don’t we, as human communicators, ask these types of questions or ask the communicator to help us understand what they mean before sending a abusive or insulting message?

 I’ll leave you with this quote from Bob Dylan.

A mistake is to commit a misunderstanding.   ~ Bob Dylan

Until next time, be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.

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