Why are our exchanges sometimes difficult?

Why are our exchanges sometimes difficult?


Misunderstandings are frequent in our discussions, especially when we want to go too fast and we don't get enough into the other's head.

We spend a lot of time not understanding each other. We receive messages that are ambiguous or lack detail. We hear a criticism or an attack where there is none. We re-explain, we reformulate.  

Being in the mind of the other

When we communicate, we presuppose that the other is ready to understand our message as sent. But a conversation is a meeting between different minds. To understand each other perfectly, we would have to be in the head of our interlocutor. 

Longtime friends and old couples understand each other better than strangers because they share many experiences and conversations, which helps to guess each other's mindset and intention. 

How we express ourselves is influenced by our culture, experiences, recent thoughts, and emotional state. The meaning given by the person who expresses himself is sometimes very different from the meaning understood. Words and phrases often have several possible meanings (“See you later” can mean during the day or another time). Some people may also be in an emotional state that biases their interpretations of messages.

All of these factors can make communication more difficult. When the subject is more complex or more delicate, more details, explanations or examples are often needed to be fully understood. 

When we know less about the other, we must also s adapt to his way of speaking and thinking. 

Read between the lines

When we listen, we seek not only to understand the meaning of the words, but also to “read between the lines”, to understand the intention of the other according to the context, what has been said before or what we know of the person. Appropriate or erroneous inferences are made (eg, “It was hard” can refer to several events mentioned earlier). We capture information about his psychological state and his motivations. This intuitive analysis makes it possible to guess a little what the other meant. 

Intuitive analysis often improves our interpretations of messages. It also allows you to anticipate what people will understand when they receive our message. This is what makes spoken interactions less prone to misunderstandings than written messages.

Some people are less adept at putting themselves in other people's shoes and guessing what they are thinking. Social anxiety or autistic traits can prevent us from reading between the lines or making good inferences based on context.  

Getting along anyway

Torious discussions can lead to communication fatigue. 

You can also feel misunderstood, frustrated or unappreciated. 

You can doubt the good faith of the other, their desire to come to an understanding. 

In communications, it is important to give the benefit of the doubt to the other, to assume that their oversights or errors are unintentional. Sometimes people lack sensitivity to other points of view. Sometimes they need more attention paid to their point of view.

Misunderstandings decrease when the quality of the exchange is favored more than the speed, when the relationship is favored more than the desire to be understood. 

That means being more generous in terms of details and patience. But also develop the habit of putting yourself in the other person's shoes by asking questions about their priorities, their point of view and their mental state.