5 Ways To Stop Miscommunicating So Much At Work


It happens way too often in the office: A thinks B understood what he meant, B thinks A meant the other thing…

Neither of them realise it until a few days (or weeks!) later when it’s too late.




It’s common knowledge that prevention is better than the cure, but somehow, miscommunications still tend to be dealt with only after the fact.

Stop wasting time, money, and a little bit of sanity (because you know resolving miscommunications can make you tear your own hair out) — sign yourself up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on communicating effectively at work.

Meanwhile, here’s a couple of communication strategies you can think about.


Personal Habits


1. Clarify, don’t assume


Too many miscommunications occur because everyone just assumes they’ve gotten themselves across clearly.

The reality is that assumptions are like breeding grounds for misunderstandings; when you assume you’ve been understood, you expect a certain course of action from the other person.




When your expectations aren’t met, you get upset at the other person, who thinks you’re just acting up for no reason, and gets upset with you in return.

It snowballs pretty quickly into a full-blown conflict from there.

All of this can be easily avoided from the get-go by simply asking if you’re on the same page instead of leaving things ambiguous, fuzzy, and ripe for misunderstanding.




Pro tip: if you sense your relationship with a co-worker souring because of a miscommunication, address it directly and respectfully to clear up any hard feelings that would make working together unnecessarily complicated.


2. Listen up


Distraction is now a hallmark of modern lifestyles.

The office communicator pings every 2 seconds, you get 30 new emails before lunchtime, your phone is perpetually vibrating, your co-workers keep talking over your head… it’s a lot.




Being constantly distracted eats at your ability to focus, even when you need to give someone your undivided attention. That’s when you tend to miss things out.

Even if you were paying attention throughout most of a meeting and only looked at your phone to send a quick email reply, you could miss important details, like a deadline that was pushed forward.




Quit being such a bad listener, and start learning to listen.

If you need pointers, communication expert Julian Treasure came up with a simple acronym (RASA) to help you listen better:

  • Receive
  • Appreciate
  • Summarise
  • Ask


3. Watch your non-verbal cues


Sometimes it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.

Even if you’re thanking your co-worker for doing you a favour, it can easily be misinterpreted if your body language is sending a completely different message.



Using the wrong tone, not turning your whole body to face the person who’s speaking to you, bouncing your leg while they’re talking, slouching…

All of it adds up to paint quite a negative picture of you and what you’re trying to say in the eyes of the other person.


Team Habits


4. Democratise communication


On an organisational level, a lot of miscommunication occurs when there are too many closed-off channels.

Rigid organisational hierarchies, for instance, can restrict communication to a one-way street from top to bottom and reduce employee engagement.




Consequently, leaders may assume that they’re doing a pretty good job at the helm when the rest of the team begs to differ.

Under-communication could happen too, since lower-level executives feel less valued at work without proper avenues to put forward new ideas for improving efficiency and performance.




Conversely, when there’s a culture of open communication within an organisation, there’s two-way communication, which creates a lot of transparency.

That builds trust and strengthens rapport, which could greatly reduce the frequency of miscommunication and neuter its potential to devolve into full-fledge communication breakdown.

Think about it.

The closer you feel to your teammates, the likelier you are to understand each other’s communication styles.

You’d also likely be more committed to making sure that misunderstandings don’t get out of hand.


Constructive Criticism


5. Sugarcoat less


Even when a culture of open communication has been established within a team, the art of giving constructive criticism can still be tricky.




It’s easy to take things personally or overreact in the moment, which is why some of us may try to cushion the blow by sugarcoating it way too much.

Truthfully? It’s confusing, takes away from the urgency of the negative feedback, and often doesn’t really solve the problem when all is said and done.

That doesn’t mean you need to be harsh about it: you just need to be a little bit more firm.



It’s possible to be supportive and provide direct, concise criticism at the same time. Here are some tips:

  • Preface yourself by re-establishing rapport
  • Start with a positive before you get into the negative
  • Be precise: say exactly what the problem is, why it’s a problem, and what changes have to be made
  • Don’t play the blame game: focus on what needs to happen moving forward


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