Keys to (mis)communication

Four steps to make conversations easier.

Charlie Perkins.png
Charlie Perkins.
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Have you ever talked with a friend about a problem, only to realize that they just don’t seem to grasp why the issue is so important to you?

Have you ever presented an idea to a group, and it’s met with utter confusion?

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The answer to those questions is ultimately miscommunication. It can lead to confusion, animosity, and misunderstanding. As humans, we can’t help but send and receive messages through our subjective lenses.

Remember that game of catch? Imagine it with a lump of clay. As each person touches it, they shape it to fit their unique perceptions based on any number of variables, like knowledge or experience, age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or family background. Even emotion might cloud their understanding, and by adding more people into a conversation, each with their subjectivities, the complexity of communication grows exponentially.

So as the lump of clay goes back and forth from one person to another, reworked, reshaped, and always changing, it’s no wonder our messages sometimes turn into a mush of miscommunication.


But, luckily, some simple practices can help us all navigate our daily interactions for better communication. One, recognize that passive hearing and active listening are not the same. Engage actively with the verbal and nonverbal feedback of others, and adjust your message to facilitate greater understanding.

Two, listen with your eyes and ears, as well as with your gut.

Three, take time to understand as you try to be understood. In the rush to express ourselves, it’s easy to forget that communication is a two-way street.

And finally, four, be aware of your perceptual filters. Say, “This is how I see the problem, but how do you see it? When we try and implement simple but useful practices in our daily behavior the complexities that arise while communicating just sets back and everything around feels easy.

About Charlie Perkins

Charlie Perkins is an author, musician, photographer, and videographer based in Rochester. The Chicago-bred Perkins attended Northwestern University concentrating on Radio, TV Broadcasting, and Interpersonal Communications. He spent 29 years at Harris Bank in Chicago and taught “Principles of Corporate Television” Columbia College in the same city. He has also spent 17 years as Unit Manager, Media Support Services for the Mayo Clinic. In a previous life, he covered the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s championship run, ’96-‘98 as a freelance photographer.

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