How to Avoid Miscommunication in Business

April 28, 2016

~by Haley Lynn Gray~


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people get into an argument over something that they thought they heard or that they thought was implied in a conversation. There is often intent read into someone’s actions that may be entirely misread, and ill-will and arguments begin. The further apart you are, the easier it is for these little miscommunications to start happening.

MiscommunicationWhen we are in business, we sometimes get the luxury of meeting face to face, but frequently that isn’t the case, so then we end up on a video call, on the phone, sending emails back and forth, or even sending instant messages or texts back and forth. This modern world we’re in is miraculous. We can instantaneously communicate with someone else half-way around the world. My daughter has friends in Australia who she communicates with on Snapchat on a daily basis. I have business clients who are scattered across the globe. But that means we have to think about how we communicate more than ever before.  

When you can’t read someone’s facial expression or body language, it can get tricky to pick up on the right clues and context. Throw in differences in culture and language, and you the probability of having major miscommunications in business increases significantly.

Think about it. In the English language we sometimes use the same word to mean different things. For instance, in Australia they talk about throwing shrimp on the barbie. That means that they’re going to barbecue shrimp. But in America shrimp on a barbie would be putting shrimp on a barbie doll, which isn’t quite the same thing at all. That’s just one example. Lorry, jumper, pullover, rubber, and flat are all examples of words that have different meanings in English or that aren’t used from one country to the next.  

So, if we have distance, and loss of clarity because we are going from live meetings to using texts, miscommunications are bound to happen. People are going to get upset, and get their knickers in a twist over something that they thought they understood. Now, imagine what happens if you’re dealing with someone who isn’t even a native English speaker. Depending on their level of fluency, you could be increasing the opportunities for problems even further.  

One game we used to play growing up was telephone operator. Line everyone up, and whisper something in the next person’s ear. What came out at the end wasn’t the same as what we started with. To make things extra fun, we would translate from English to Portuguese, to English again, and around the room we went. Imagine the things that came out the other end. What might have started as an orange cat, ended up being a green martian standing on the Eiffel Tower. Miscommunication was inevitable, and was magnified at each step.  

Let’s apply this to business. We’re in a global economy and we speak different languages, though we may have some in common. We’re communicating across space and time, using a huge variety of different media, including phones, text and video. Things are going to be misunderstood and there are going to be people who get upset.  

Let’s work on cutting one another some slack and figuring out how to ask questions when something doesn’t seem quite right so that we get the right intent and interpretation of what’s being communicated. Working on communicating clearly and finding resolution before World War III breaks out is absolutely critical in business.

Communication is the one piece we must have in our businesses. Without it we have no business, so let’s all try coming together to work it out.

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Meet the Author: Haley Lynn Gray

Haley-Lynn-Gray__IMG_2025-compressorHaley helps female entrepreneurs create a strategy plan for their businesses – so they can make enough money to spend quality time with their family, pay for their children’s dance lessons, pay bills – and not worry about where the next client is coming from.

Haley is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Leadership Girl. She helps other entrepreneurs build their businesses by sharing the benefits of her business education and experience through Business Coaching.

Whether you want to get a new business off the ground or expand an existing business, Haley can assist you.

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