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Misunderstood: Dad Bods, Minecraft Mods & 7 Communication Mistakes

Have you ever written a text or email, or said something to friend, partner, or co-worker, and the response clearly indicated the person completely misunderstood you?

Perhaps you responded, "I think you misunderstood me."

The funny thing about misunderstanding is we assume it starts with the other person. I mean, when people misunderstand us, the misunderstanding is because of them, right?

Sometimes we're misunderstood because we're judged, or people assumed something about us, Often we're misunderstood because we miscommunicated.

If you doubt me, go read an email you sent that descended into a hellish Who's on First? routine. Weeks later, without the benefit of fresh context in your head, you're sure to wonder if you were drinking or sent that email in your sleep on a night you took two Ambien.

There are many ways we contribute to misunderstandings. Let's review seven miscommunication offenders:

This, It, and That.

Your partner: "I'm packing for our trip this weekend but I can't find the sleeping bags. Also, did you confirm the beach is a nude beach and if firewood is provided?"

You: "Try the top shelf of the upstairs hall closet. And yes it is."

What does "it" refer to in the above reply? It, this, and that cause miscommunication because they introduce ambiguity.

If you've driven anywhere with a young child in the car, you've probably heard a tiny voice say, "What is that?" to the back of your head as you've driven past a thousand doohickeys.

When using those three little words (I mean "it", "this", or "that", of course), make sure one topic or detail is discussed at a time, or swap it, this, or that with the specific subject. Otherwise, the person you're communicating with will be confused,

Or, worse, your partner could end up wrapped up in a towel in a holding cell at the police station because of your confusing way of saying "Firewood is included."

Too much information.

Are you a chronic over-explainer? I've been guilty of this.

"Hi, I have an appointment at 10:30 this morning at urgent care. I haven't been able to get rid of this cough. It seems to be going around so I hope I won't have to wait for three hours to see a doctor. Anyway, I guess I didn't park my car well this morning when I got to work because it doesn't seem like you had enough room to park."

(At this point, the person you're speaking to is already writhing in pain because he has no idea where this conversation is going. Have mercy!)

(Overexplaining continues)

"I really hate to bother you but I need to leave for my appointment now."

Are you asking for a ride, or are you avoiding saying they parked too close to you and you can't get into your car? When you dance around with your words to avoid sounding too pointed, or as if you're casting blame, confusion or frustration enters the chat.

"Hi, I need to leave for an appointment. Our cars are so close that I can't open my driver side door. Could you please move your car?"

Ahhh....Simply and politely getting to the point is merciful to the listener.

Too little information.

Communicating with too little information often happens because you have context in your head without letting the other person in on the conversation you've been having in your head for the past five minutes.

It's like you're sitting in a coffee shop with someone and they say, "Well, I think we should go, don't you?" So you pack up your things and stand up only for them to look at you and say, "Where are you going?"

You stand there confused for a moment and respond, "You said you think we should go." And then your friend says, "I meant we should go see the new Barbie movie!"


Sloppy writing habits.

I have a friend who uses voice text to post on social media. I'm a big voice texter, as well. While it might feel goofy to say things like "period" and "comma" aloud, it's essential to add punctuation. Proofread your voice-to-text transcriptions or emails. Punctuation completely alters meaning.

A woman without her man is nothing.

(A woman; without her, man is nothing.)

Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.

(Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.)

Hunters please use caution when hunting pedestrians using walking trails.

(Hunters please use caution when hunting. Pedestrians using walking trails.)

Word choice and sloppy grammar also change meaning.

Tables are for eating customers only.

(I hope they mean tables are for paying customers, only.)

Tongs, tongues, your butt cheeks, whatever.

Too much complexity.

Most of us don't write how we speak. We don't have time to edit and revise our spoken words, but we have time to think as we write, which can introduce formality.

For a long time, writing was for academic circles where showing off one's intellect is a thing.

The common rule of thumb is to write at a sixth-grade level to be a more effective communicator. Some of us resist following this advice because we don't want to "dumb our writing down."

Don't you love it so much when instructions to assemble your new desk is full of big, fancy words? No, you don't. Other people don't like it, either. Making people stop to look up fancy words disrupts the flow of communication. And if they don't bother to look it up, they simply won't pick up what you're putting down (on the page).

There's a reason the phrase "Corpulent paternalistic physique" isn't sweeping the nation. It's not short, easy, and punchy. Dad bod, however, is. Can you go a week without hearing this phrase? We love dad bods. Or at least we love saying dad bods.

I don't know where this idea that writing at a 12-year-old level is dumbing things down, either.

Have you found yourself saying, "I can't wait until my nephew/son/neighbor/granddaughter turns thirteen, because, man, twelve-year-old kids are so dumb."

Minecraft is one of the best-selling and most influential games for the past decade. If you're unfamiliar, Minecraft is what's called a sandbox game that uses digital blocks to build from your imagination.

A mod, or modification, are changes made to the game to alter the original gameplay.

When my son was 12 he used to blog about Minecraft and tell me about Redstone and Mods. Most of what my son said went over my head. So, when starting this post I decided to see if I could easily follow the steps many 12-year-olds have successfully executed to create their own mods in Minecraft.

Step 1: Install the JDK.

Step 2: Set up your Text Editor.

Step 3: Get Forge up and running.

Step 4: Download and install Pinta.

Step 5: Begin working on your project.

Step 6: Make Your Own Mod

Step 7: Put your Mod together.

Step 8: Test your Mod

As a 12-year-old would say: I was fml by step three. (Not my 12-year-old, of course!)

Knock it off with the fancy words if you want people to understand you.

Relying on tone where tone is absent.

Years ago, one of my direct reports came into my office and slammed a pile of papers on my desking saying, "Look how she talks to me!"

I thumbed through the mundane pile of work emails and had to tell her I didn't see what she was talking about because I was reading each email with a neutral tone. I shared with my associate how personality differences shape the way people communicate and later led a workshop for the team on the subject.

Task-oriented people tend to get straight to business, while relationship-oriented people add in social pleasantries at the beginning and end of their communications.

I often coach task-oriented people (me, included) to write the email, and then add the greeting and closing at the end when communicating with a relationship-oriented, or unknown, person. Relational folks can situationally modify by being brief and getting straight to the point with task-oriented people.

I worked with a woman years ago and on Monday mornings I'd bound into her office talking about work tasks. I noticed her face and neck would get red and blotchy. For the longest time I thought she was weird. It wasn't until started doing the work of understanding how people tick that I realized I was the one making her blotchy!

"Sends people into fight/flight/freeze mode" wasn't the resume bullet I was going for.

I went off on a tangent on this one. Don't do that in your writing, either.

Communication method.

Sometimes written communication is not the way to go. I like how the University of Southampton phrases their guidance on communication method:

A basic rule of thumb in the selection of the communication channel is that the more a message needs to change behaviors and win over hearts and minds, the more it has to be delivered using a face-to-face channel.

If there's potential for conflict or difference of opinion, face-to-face, phone, or video chat is best.

The purpose of communication is to understand and be understood. It's good to keep that point top of mind any time we're communicating, or choosing a communication method.

I'd love to know: What cause of miscommunication would you add?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Looking to understand and be understood? Self-awareness is where to start.

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Want to go deeper? "I wish I knew these things about myself earlier!" - You, soon

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Cover photo credit: Nina Rivas

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Jul 21, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I'm into the This, It, and That framework! Great stuff!

Kristin A. Sherry
Kristin A. Sherry
Jul 21, 2023
Replying to

Those little words cause so many problems!

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