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How To Avoid Miscommunication

Team Xdesign
How To Avoid Miscommunication

During a recent Friday @ 4 exercise, we put our communication skills to the test. It was a simple activity to illustrate the differences in how we communicate, both in delivering and receiving a message.

The Activity.

Each person received a stack of cards totaling the amount of people playing. On the very top card, we had 20 seconds to write down any phrase. After 20 seconds, we passed our entire stack of cards to the person on our right. We then had 45 seconds to interpret the phrase on the top card and draw a picture to illustrate it on the next card. After 45 seconds we passed the whole stack again, with each person writing a phrase of what we understood the picture to communicate without looking at the bottom card.

We went around the circle like this until we each received our original stack. Afterward, we laid out our cards to see how accurate our messages were communicated. Needless to say, the majority of the stacks ended with a phrase completely different than the original!

The Purpose.

The exercise was to practice communicating in a way that may not be the usual method. Most of the participants are not skilled illustrators, so it was interesting to draw an accurate representation in just 45 seconds. For the most part, we all communicate differently.

I can bet that you have found yourself in a situation with a friend, significant other or co-worker in which you thought you communicated very clearly but the other person did not understand you in the way you thought. Or vice versa. Accidental miscommunication is a part of everyday life.

The Application.

How can we attempt to avoid miscommunication? What can we do to communicate clearer?

Always identify the “why.” Ask yourself, “What is my purpose in this interaction?” If you are the one initiating conversation, know your goal. If you are the other person, be sure to get to the “why” of the interaction by asking questions of clarification, if needed. You never want to leave a conversation and think, “what was the point of that?”

Here are some ways to be sure you are communicating correctly, no matter what side of the conversation you’re on:

  • Be clear and concise - Simplify your message; reduce the number of ideas in each sentence. Avoid speaking in circles by getting to the point quickly.
  • Check your facts - Be sure that your communication is error-free. Nothing is more confusing than communicating false information.
  • Stay relevant - Stick to the main topic so that the flow is smooth and connected.
  • Complete the message - Include all pertinent information so that your audience knows what it is that you want them to do, if applicable.
  • Take notes - If the conversation involves a “call to action” on your part, it is always best to write the key points down.
  • Ask questions - If you EVER have an inkling of doubt, ask to clarify. You won’t be sorry.
  • Recap - End communication with a brief repeat highlighting those few important points and all persons will leave confident that the message was received.


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