Communication with others is something that we take for granted, but there are really many elements involved and many processes occurring behind our words.
Research shows that the words we say are only 20% of what we communicate. What comprises the other 80%? It includes body language, tone, and the listener’s interpretation. We are aware of body language and tone and can partially control them; however the listener’s interpretation is totally out of our control. In addition, the speaker assumes that the listener will understand what he or she means.
Additionally, people use the same words but with different meanings . For example, when the slang expression “shut up” first came out, the literal meaning seemed like “be quiet” which was insulting. However from the tone and body language, the listener might have understood that the speaker meant something other than be quiet, something very positive.
Many people don’t speak accurately and listeners need to interpret what is said and its proper context. Some people tend to exaggerate when they speak and the listener has to adjust accordingly. Alternatively, many understate their messages which forces the listener to read between the lines.
What can we do to avoid these potential misunderstanding? When you are talking with someone and things don’t feel right, pay attention to that feeling. Ask the speaker, “from what you said, I understood “abc”. Is that what you meant?” In addition, when you say something and the other person reacts differently than expected, ask them, “How did you understand what I just said?” Clarify interpretations to ensure better understanding and better relationships.
One more thing. The deeper the relationship, the more vulnerable you and the other person are. Therefore, you should work at improving understanding with your close friends and family members.
Next week, we will continue with more techniques for improving communications.