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misunderstandings in social situations

Ways to Help Avoid Misunderstandings in Social Situations

Being misunderstood can be a painful and confusing experience that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis. Everyone has something to say and a desire to be heard, and when we feel that others don’t fully understand the message we are trying to get across, this creates a disconnect that can often grow into hurt feelings and loneliness. Fortunately, there are ways to help avoid being misunderstood in social situations and to communicate your message effectively.

Identify Your Goals

Every time you communicate with someone else, you have a goal. In many situations, this goal is clear and direct, such as giving your boss an update on your project or attempting to convince a customer to purchase your company’s product. In other situations, this may be more general, such as when you are spending time with a friend. In these cases, the goal may be simply to have a positive interaction. However, a goal is still there, and identifying it in advance will help you to remain focused and deliver the message appropriately in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Be Assertive

Some people may make the mistake of confusing assertiveness with aggression, but this could not be more wrong. Communicating assertively just means making your intent clear and direct while remaining respectful. By getting right to the point, you can communicate your message in a concise and easy-to-understand way. You can do this by making “I” statements that get your message across. For example, “I need to sit in the back because sitting in the front makes me very nervous.”

Be Expressive

Nonverbal communication plays a crucial role in how people understand your message. Cues such as the tone of your voice, your facial expressions, and body language often form most of the meaning people will understand behind your words. For example, “great job” may be interpreted as a genuine compliment or a sarcastic put-down depending upon the way it is said. Sometimes, social anxiety may cause you to act less expressive, and in this case, the key may be to relax and open up. 

Make Sure You Are Understood

You can also avoid misunderstanding by checking for social cues that indicate someone has understood what you are trying to say. When someone nods their head while they are listening to you, this is a good sign of their understanding. However, if someone appears to be confused, you might want to see if they do understand you by asking some questions, such as

  • Does this make sense?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Do you have any questions?

Provide Clarification

If you haven’t been understood correctly and you aren’t sure why, then try asking questions to see what was missed. This could focus on what the listener heard by asking, “What did you hear?” or on what they missed, such as “What points do you need me to clarify?” Sometimes, the issue may not be that the listener misunderstood the message, but its intent. In this case, you may instead need to clarify by explaining your meaning. Either way, it is always best to check in after communicating to clear up any misunderstandings quickly. This can avoid any damaging effects that the misunderstanding may have, and helps to identify how misunderstandings can be avoided in the future.

Final Thoughts on Ways to Help Misunderstandings in Social Situations

Misunderstandings can be painful and cause damage to relationships and our well-being. There are many possible causes of misunderstandings in social situations, but they can all be avoided with the right communication strategy. The key to effective communication that avoids misunderstandings is to practice regularly in real social situations, whether in person or online. This will allow you to build your communication skills as well as to identify and remove any barriers to your being understood.

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