Apparently, 80% of human communication is non-verbal. And by my non-scientific estimate, 99% of us are terrible at communicating non-verbally.
Whether we are talking about inter-personal relationships or business relationships, much of what we believe is being communicated is made up of our own assumptions and information we actually receive from other sources.
I saw a very interesting website the other day which highlighted this perfectly and shows how open, clear, truthful communication could improve our lives dramatically.
40 Days of Miscommunication
40 Days of Dating is all about two close friends, Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh, who both became tired of the prospect of dating strangers in the hope of finding Mr or Mrs ‘right’. Instead they decided to ‘date’ each other for 40 days and see if their perfect partner had, in fact, been staring them in the face all along.
They set up various rules for the the experiment, including committing to monogamy for the full 40 days and completing a daily questionnaire about their day and how their relationship was going.
After the 40 days were over, they then assembled these questionnaires and published their responses side-by-side daily for 40 days.
This gave a fascinating insight into how they were both feeling every day of the ‘relationship’ and showed how bad they really were at communicating with each other.
As Jessica said on day six, “…the source of most of our misunderstandings is that we judge other people by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.”
Take, for example, the day when Jessica had a debilitating headache, but she knew that the date they had planned was important to Tim, so she went anyway – but wasn’t able to be her usual, bubbly self.
Jessica’s intentions were great, but her actions were obviously influenced by the pain she was in. Somehow she didn’t communicate this very well with Tim, which resulted in him interpreting her actions as negative, instead of being grateful for her good intentions.
A little more verbal communication, more empathy and some better interpretation of the intentions/actions would quite dramatically have altered how they both felt the date had gone.
Now, obviously, the non-verbal part is hard to improve upon, except through trust and experience, so the verbal aspect of their communication is something I just wanted to shout at them that they should improve.
You’re no Better
Tim and Jessica’s miscommunications are, sadly, not unique to them – we are all guilty to some degree or another of miscommunicating with those around us, be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, or anyone else we come in contact with.
Our lives are spent trying desperately to understand what people are REALLY communicating, with little or no understanding of their true intentions. This leads to regular misunderstandings and offense being taken for no real reason.
Just be Clear
Companies are learning now, in the age of social-media and instant internet mass-communication, that they need to be much more open, clear and forthcoming with information about issues they are experiencing and mistakes they have made – and that’s a great thing.
We should all follow their lead, be open, tell the truth and leave little or nothing to interpretation – otherwise we will continue to be misinterpreted, and it will be our own fault!
Do you have problems communicating with someone or some people due to misinterpretation?