It’s frustrating to be misunderstood in a conversation, especially when you think you’re being crystal clear. Fixing it is a matter of perception, but you need to focus on their perception, not yours.
Photo by Karsten Bitter
Our brains like to take shortcuts when we listen to others by reading facial expressions and body language, and when we talk we tend to fall victim to the illusion of transparency, where we overestimate how clear we think we’re being. Heidi Grant Halvorson, professor at Columbia Business School and author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It, suggests it’s a matter of altering your perception:
…it’s much more practical for you to decide to be a good sender of signals than to hope that the perceiver is going to go into phase two of perception. It’s not realistic to expect people to go to that effort. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to weigh every possible motivation of another person? Plus, you can’t control what’s going on inside of another person’s mind, but you can control how you come across.
If you find that people are regularly misunderstanding you, you need to review the signals that you’re sending. How would your own signals read to you? Is your body language off? Do you think your making a neutral face when you’re really making a face that looks angry? It’s also helpful to think of ways to further explain what you’re trying to say. Most fights come from a simple misunderstanding, but you can thwart them by sending extra clear signals.
Mixed Signals: Why People Misunderstand Each Other [The Atlantic]