A better way to say - You misunderstood me

A better way to say – You misunderstood me

You’ve said this word a million times, and you’re not wrong, misunderstandings happen all the time.

The interpersonal gap in communication is a real thing, and bridging the gap can help by using your words differently to clarify your intent.

A better way to say “you misunderstood” is by omitting these two words altogether and instead, blame the gap in communication.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

Why you shouldn’t tell people they misunderstood

When you tell someone they misunderstood you put the blame on them. For some people, this isn’t an issue, but others feel belittled every time it comes out of your mouth.

For some, it may mean “you don’t get it, you’re stupid, or you’re incapable of understanding.”

The same can be said for the words, “You don’t understand me, you never understand me, or you’re not listening to me.”

When these words come into your mind, you begin to interpret those words as emotions. That’s because your thoughts ultimately lead to emotions.

According to one article, “Thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on one another…For example, a person with a fear of dogs is likely hyperattentive of the dog across the street and appraises the approach of the dog as threatening, which leads to emotional distress. Another person who appraises the dog’s approach as friendly will have a very different emotional response to the same situation.”

Understanding how to bridge the gap in communication

Bridging the interpersonal gap refers to what a person intends to communicate and what is actually understood or perceived by the other person (impact).

The model below describes the interpersonal communication process from the intent of Jeff as it passes through internal filters where it is decoded into an action. 

Interpersonal gap model

The Action (verbal and nonverbal behaviors) passes through Carol’s internal filters where it is decoded. The impact includes some form of thought (interpretations and judgments) that produces an emotion.

“If the effect is what was intended, the gap has been bridged.  If the effect is the opposite of what was intended, the gap has become greater.”

– John Wallen

Who is at fault in a misunderstanding

Can you see now who is at fault in a misunderstanding? Clarifying and understanding the intent is the responsibility of both parties.

It’s Jeff’s responsibility to do everything he can to clarify his intent with the action, and it’s Carol’s responsibility to make sure she does everything she can to understand Jeff’s intent.

A lot of the time we think of the action as the behavior or problem with the other person, but the action isn’t always the other person’s intent. It’s just one way they communicate their intent.

A lot of the time, we aren’t even aware of our intent. We may even need time to ponder our intent to be able to clearly understand it.

In this case, Carol may feel hurt by the impact of Jeff’s action. She may even ignore him, not respond, or shut down.

A better way to respond is by helping Jeff get clarity with his intent. This may include listening better by paraphrasing and asking questions to better understand what he meant by his action.

Sometimes the action has happened too many times in too many different ways that it may be too difficult to communicate. In these circumstances, you may need to pause to recover from the conflict and take time to heal.

The key is to not give up and to continue turning toward them. There’s a great book that explains this in greater detail below.

A better way to say you misunderstood

A better way to say “you misunderstood” is by omitting these words and blaming the gap on communication. Instead, you might say:

  • There was a gap in communication
  • There was a disconnect in communication
  • I may have not clarified this well enough
  • What I meant by that was…

These examples, won’t work in every situation, but they may be helpful to see how you can take the blame off the other person.

You’ll notice in some of these examples you might choose to blame yourself for your action. That’s because explaining your intent is just as much your responsibility as it is for the other person to understand it.

Communication is a two-way process. If you are misunderstood, it’s your responsibility to clarify what you meant. You can do this by first

  1. Understanding your intent
  2. Explaining your intent
  3. Ask to see if the other person understood

It may take time to understand your intentions. Get a piece of paper and write it out. It may not be that clear until you ponder it in your mind and write it down.

Similar Posts