How To Avoid Misunderstandings


How To Avoid Misunderstandings

We’ve all done it. Misunderstood someone, I mean. We’ve all been less than clear when giving instructions to someone too. We’ve even misunderstood someone when they have repeated their request using different words!

Misunderstandings are a way of life and it is our job and our responsibility, as leaders, to ensure that clarity in the task at hand is key.

Why do we misunderstand someone, even though the instructions seem clear? There are several reasons for this, however the big ones I’ve listed below:

Not Listening


Here’s my step-by-step guide to prevent misunderstandings.

Step One Backtrack

Go back over what the person has said, using their words so that you demonstrate that you have listened to them. This can be as simple as saying, “So, if I got this right, you want me to….., is that correct?”

Step Two


If they say yes, but you still don’t know how you are going to do this, ask, “What specifically do you want me to do?”

Step Three 

Use “When” questions.

“When you say ……, what exactly do you mean by that?”

Step Four

Use How questions, for those times when you still aren’t clear on the request. This will uncover the method they want you to use.

“How shall I do this, by phone, face-to-face or by email?”

If you want to ensure that you have been understood, you can use this framework by getting them to backtrack and clarify what you have said.

The key to understanding is to be specific. You cannot be too specific when dealing with people. I remember being lost, so I asked a shop assistant where I was specifically and she said, very slowly “Mc-D-o-n-a-l-d’s”.

Have your best week ever


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