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Don’t Let Misunderstandings Leave You Misunderstood! Tips for Delivering Messages

Posted on Oct 18 2013 under Blog Posts

imagesMisunderstandings –don’t you just despise them! They ruin many conversations from the personal to the professional. Your delivery of a message (s) can often times be perceived differently than what you intended. For example, an employee might over hear a supervisor say “I GOT HIM!” The employee understands the message as something negative. The supervisor’s intention however, is “I finally understand him.” Many times messages are perceived as negative when considering how it is delivered, and this can create a great deal of conflict. This mostly happens when your boss or your team leader has to deliver an unpleasant message in the midst of an existing dispute. Delivering a hard message can be harmful if it is not presented in an effective and constructive way.

According to author Heidi Burgess, all communications have two valuable roles, the sender and receiver. The sender is the person who delivers the message and the receiver is the one who accepts and interprets the message. The interpretation is when your conflict will most likely occur. However, interpretation is not solely dependent upon the receiver. The sender can frequently provide you with reasons to believe that the message has an undesirable intent. His/her posture, tone, level of empathy or the type of space chosen to deliver an unpleasant message could be the reason why you interpret it as rude, impolite or offensive. If your boss or team leader is delivering a difficult message to you, the characteristics aforementioned should be considered and valued.

Picture this! You’re a team leader/manager and your boss just gave you bad news. The news basically states that if the customer service numbers don’t improve substantially, company layoffs will occur. You now have to deliver this tough message in the clearest and most understandable way for your co-workers and team. If the message is delivered as a threat, ultimatum or blame, any person in your department could take this as a personal attack. Maybe this past month his/her numbers were low. It’s challenging…right? Exactly!

Here are few tips to lessen misunderstanding (Adapted from Beyond Intractability)

  •  Actively Listen. Pay attention to what your co-worker or boss is saying and ask for clarity.
  •  Speak directly to the person who needs to receive the message. Give that person your full attention.
  •  Speak from your perspective. If the message involves addressing your co-worker’s many long breaks, let the co-worker know how that impacts you or your work environment
  • Speak for a purpose. Plan out what you want to say and focus on it. This will keep you from rambling when you deliver the message.

The bottom line is that unresolved misunderstandings in communication creates conflict! Ongoing conflict can create a destructive work environment. To learn more about delivering difficult message visit these links 10 Tips For Delivering Bad News and How To Deliver Difficult Conversations.

 by Tierra Henry, University of Baltimore Graduate Student



9 Replies to “Don’t Let Misunderstandings Leave You Misunderstood! Tips for Delivering Messages”

  1. Smart topic, Pattie.

    I’d add going into such a conversation/encounter with a highly-empathetic mindset, even if you have a difficult message to convey.

    One might also consider asking for feedback from the receiver to see how that person interpreted what you said and to see if it lines up with the intent.

    Help re-focus on the positive (if there is any) and the solution, in the looking-forward philosophy.

    If you can allow a person to save face, the communication has a lot greater chance at being heard as desired and to become more effective.

  2. Correction – smart topic, Tierra. 🙂

  3. Tierra Henry said on October 24th, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Hi Micheal,

    Thank you for commenting on my blog. Yes I agree with you focusing on the positive is a great idea. It would be a great excercise as well for the workplace and employees.


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