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How to Resolve a Miscommunication

7 January 2013 No Comment


So they just don’t get it?  Here’s what to do.  Miscommunication usually boils down to this: someone wants someone to do something they either don’t want to do or something they don’t understand.  Here are three ways to fix it:

  • The Understanding
  • The Concession
  • The Steamroll

The Understanding

Always try this first.  Please.

Ask them very politely to sit down with you in a private area and discuss the matter at hand.  Be careful not to involve other people.  That can complicate things.  Go into the meeting with one intention: to listen to and understand what the other person has to say.  If you don’t understand their terminology, stop them and politely ask what they mean.  Don’t speak your mind until you understand exactly what they’re talking about.  Test yourself.  Repeat back to them what they said to you: “What I think you’re saying is X.”  Try it.  It should calm them down and make things easier.

Did they agree that you understood their point of view?  If not, then repeat the above steps until they do.  If you can’t get past this point, then you probably need a third party to help moderate.

If you got it, it’s their turn to understand your point of view.  State in no uncertain terms what you need for them to do.  Do not explain technical details.  Do not opine.  Tell them what you need from them, period.  If you can’t do that, the reasons don’t matter.  If they ask for reasons, then lay them out as simply as you can.  Ask them, very politely, to repeat back to you what you said so you can be certain that you’ve been clear.

If this process got you somewhere then you have correctly executed the Understanding.

The Concession

Just figure out what they want and do it.  Easy as pie.  The hard work is keeping your ego in check.

You know this one.  You do it with your boss every day.(unless you are the boss: you do it with your customers every day)  The trick is to try it with someone other than your boss.  It works in a lot of places you might not expect.  Practiced as a habit, it will win you friends and make your life a lot easier.

The Steamroll

Sometimes you just have to take charge.

Prepare for the interaction by thinking about what you need to happen in the simplest terms you can imagine.  The best way to screw this up is to overcomplicate it.  This is not the time to justify your position.  This is not the time for details.

The magic words here are “I need for you to X.”  Say it once and leave the room.

It won’t work with everyone or all the time but there are times when it is the best option.

Master these three techniques and you’re on your way to the top of your office.  Maybe to the top of your field.  Note that nowhere in this post was the word ’email’ mentioned.  Email is the primary cause of misunderstandings in our day.  It’s a wonder it hasn’t started World War III.  To resolve miscommunications, try and meet in person.  Otherwise, pick up the phone.  Email is out.

When all else fails: agree to disagree.

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