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Communication is a lot like humor. While I may think a joke is funny, you may not. The most successful comedians have learned what will make most of the people laugh. A lot of that has to do with “frame of reference.”
And that same “frame of reference” can lead to a distortion in communication. For example, we all have different ideas of the perfect holiday: some reminisce about their large-extended family gathered around the dinner table, others do not. These “different meanings” are why one partner’s ideas of what makes a perfect holiday may be different from the others.
An area where this often causes problems is “casual attire.” Some people think this means a pair of slacks and a sweater, while others picture a dressy T-shirt and jeans. These “different meanings” may be caused by what they’ve read, what they’ve heard or where they’ve worked previously. The result is that “casual attire” becomes unclear communication. While this instance can be easily remedied with a written dress code, other misinterpretations can be more problematic.
Communication can become distorted for many reasons; these are a few communication barriers to watch out for:
One of the ways to avoid misunderstandings is to make sure you clarify what you think the person means. For example, I understand you want frequent updates – how often does that mean once a week or every few days? That way everyone’s expectations are the same.
Communicating clearly isn’t easy. Often our assumptions get in the way when we’re interacting with other people. We “tune out” when we think something isn’t important. Or we smile when we disagree to make the other person feel we hear them. But, being aware of the possible pitfalls makes it easier to avoid misunderstandings.