If you’re often misunderstood, these 10 communication habits might be why

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Do you always seem to put your foot in it?

People quickly take things the wrong way, when you didn’t mean it like that.

Or maybe you have difficulty in making people get what you’re trying to say to them. No matter how you try, they don’t seem to understand you.

Of course, misunderstandings are a part of life and relationships. We all have them.

But if they happen to you all the time, then you might need to consider your communication style.

Perhaps you’ve picked up a few unfortunate habits that aren’t doing you any favors.

1) Your straightforward approach is a bit tactless

It’s got to come first on our list, as this is usually one of the worst offenders when it comes to causing misunderstandings.

If you have a tell-it-like-it-is approach — I get you. I too prefer to be upfront and honest with people.

I don’t see the point in beating around the bush or sugarcoating.

So I know firsthand that what you have to say doesn’t always land exactly the way you’d intended it to.

That’s because whenever we speak there is always:

  • What we mean to say
  • What we actually say
  • How the other person interprets what they hear

And there’s actually a lot of room for miscommunication to creep into that.

You may not have meant it that way, but try to step outside yourself and consider how the other person feels.

Being honest isn’t an excuse to have zero tact.

We have to consider people’s emotions if we want to open the channels of healthy communication with them.

2) You beat around the bush rather than saying what you really mean

It goes both ways.

Yes, approaching a topic like a bull in a china shop is going to do damage. But that doesn’t mean we should dance around the truth either.

This is simply avoidance.

Maybe your problem is more that you’re so worried about saying the wrong thing, that you’re unclear.

Your vague comments leave others scratching their heads.

I once had a boss who would talk in riddles rather than tell us exactly what the issue was.

And when you do this, the problem is:

People aren’t quite sure what the heck you are trying to say or what you expect and want from them.

We have to find the courage to speak what’s on our minds, even when we are afraid it might not make us popular.

3) You speak without thinking first

 A lot of miscommunication could be fixed if we simply engaged our brain a bit more before speaking.

Hey, I’m not judging, that goes for me too.

More times than I care to remember I’ve blurted something out, only to be instantly horrified at the way it sounds.

We don’t need to be so quick to jump in with something to say. We can also keep certain things to ourselves.

Sometimes the old advice of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” should be heeded.

We don’t always have to offer up our unsolicited opinions or thoughts on things. In fact, many times, we don’t have the right to.

The wise person steps back and takes the time to process their thoughts before spewing them out over everyone.

4) Your tone is off

Here are some cliched domestic disputes that I’m sure many of you will recognize:

The moody spouse who has taken offense at a comment.

When asked why, they bark back:

“It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”

And they may have a point.

Or a frustrated dad who chastises his daughter by declaring:

“Don’t take that tone with me, young lady”

Because a lot of how what we say lands is down to our delivery.

We may give it very little thought, but we all have plenty of tones in our repertoire that we roll out.

For example, informal, factual, assertive, questioning, conversational, light-hearted, and respectful.

And then there are the slightly “off” tones that we may use like, condescending, irritated, impatient, annoyed, dismissive, taunting, etc.

The volume, pace, and pitch in which we speak is sending someone a message. So choose yours wisely.

5) Your sense of humor is missing the mark

We all love a sense of humor in someone.

But let’s not forget that what we find funny can be very subjective. 

You may only be joking, but that doesn’t mean the other person will appreciate what you are saying.

When your attempts at humor miss the mark, you have the potential to offend.

Are your jokes a bit risky? Well, maybe they’re actually inappropriate, unkind, or downright rude.

Sarcasm can quickly come across as passive-aggressive.

When it comes to using humor, there is a time and a place. It’s also really important to know your audience.

Otherwise, you’ll only land yourself in hot water. 

6) You don’t read the room

Misunderstandings often happen whenever we fail to pick up on more subtle communication cues.

Things like other people’s:

  • Body language
  • Energy levels
  • Tone of voice

Knowing what is appropriate give the situation is key to behaving in the right way

We may be told all the time to just “be yourself”. But that’s not strictly true.

We’re all required to adapt how we act depending on who we are around.

More formal occasions require us to be on our best behavior, compared to hanging out with friends or family.

That level of familiarity is vital.

Because if we are overly familiar too soon, it can come across as rude or impertinent.

The most skilled communicators are observant as soon as they enter a room. And they use this information wisely.

7) You’re making assumptions rather than asking

Sometimes when we go steamrollering in, we end up making judgments.

Now, that doesn’t mean those judgments are bad, but they may not be accurate.

And whenever we assume, we open the door to the potential for misunderstandings.

It may be assumptions about someone else’s preferences, thoughts, ideas, or feelings.

And when we do so, we could inadvertently come off as inconsiderate or thoughtless.

It’s always better to seek clarification at every opportunity.

Rather than put words into other people’s mouths — ask them.

They’ll appreciate it a lot more.

Because as we’ll see next, misunderstandings are less common when we get better at listening to one another.

8) You aren’t listening well enough

Generally speaking, many of us talk too much and don’t listen nearly enough — myself included.

Because even though it sounds like such a simple thing to do, it’s not.

Rather than passively sitting there, it demands we take an active role.

We must:

  • Read between the lines – checking bodylanguage and non-verbal cues of people
  • Keep our attention on the other person rather than getting lost in our own thoughts
  • Show the other person we’re listening
  • Give others the space they need to speak, rather than jumping in to talk

When someone doesn’t listen properly they’re more likely to be misunderstood, because they themselves aren’t making enough of an effort to understand others.

We can tell when someone isn’t paying attention to us and it comes across as pretty dismissive.

So don’t be surprised if it rubs people up the wrong way.

9) You don’t open up

There are of course different ways to be misunderstood.

Sometimes, it’s about people taking what you have to say the wrong way. But other times, it may be that you don’t feel like people get the real you.

It sounds like an obvious point, but in order for people to understand us, we must show ourselves.

And that can feel pretty scary.

It requires vulnerability to offer our honest opinions, ideas, feelings, and thoughts to other people.

But if you are keeping quiet, holding back, or acting shy — you may not be letting people get close enough.

You need to bring down those walls and give people a chance to see your sincere self.

10) You have resting b*tch phrase

Okay, pardon my language.

But according to scientists, resting bitch face is actually a real thing.

The expression is used to describe when someone’s subtle facial expressions unintentionally give the impression they’re:

  • Annoyed
  • Bored
  • Irritated
  • Disdainful
  • Unimpressed

I always thought it was just a bit of an insult thrown around when someone looks pretty miserable.

But it turns out, some people genuinely are emitting detectable emotions out to the world — no matter how small.

What’s more, research has shown that the strongest emotion that usually comes across from RBF is contempt.

So if you have a slightly pulled-back lip or squinting eyes, you could be unwittingly sending an F-you to the person you’re speaking to.

If misunderstandings keep arising, it may be time to take a look in the mirror — both metaphorically and literally.

But of course, it’s not just you, it’s also them

This article focuses on ineffective communication habits that you may have picked up, for good reason:

You can only control your side of the equation. So that’s where your energy and efforts have to lie.

But the reality is that communication is tricky (to put it mildly).

As George Bernard Shaw astutely highlighted: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

It’s not always you, it can also be the other person as well.

But all we can do is be more mindful of how we contribute to a conversation in order to minimize misunderstandings.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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