Misunderstandings and What They Say about Us

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Misunderstandings happen in the most loving relationships. They usually begin with misinterpretations of what is said and the meaning that is intended. No evil intention is necessary.

Given our human imperfections, especially in our communication skills, they are likely to happen again and again; therefore, it makes sense to learn from them. That way, we improve our understanding of ourselves and others if and when they occur.


Misinterpretation: An Illustration

The four year old girl was playing with her red beach ball. She threw it against the brick fence then ran to pick it up and throw it again. In the past weeks, she had done the same thing without any problem, but today the ball was not cooperating, she thought. Every time she bent down to pick it up, she felt a pain in her side. She blamed the ball for making her bend over, and for the pain which followed that action. She decided to leave the ball where it was on the ground. That night, she had emergency surgery to remove an inflamed appendix.

The Fact

  • Her side hurt.

The Misinterpretation

  • The ball caused her to bend over
  • Bending over caused the pain
  • The pain must have originated with the ball.

The Correct Interpretation

  • Her internal organ was inflamed (something a child may not understand)
  • Bending over for the ball aggravated the situation
  • The pain had an internal origin.

It is the nature of children and other inexperienced individuals to misinterpret the facts. With reference to this episode, this article will illustrate how misinterpretation of a fact can create major misunderstandings in a discussion. Knowing how they are created could heighten our awareness of our contribution; it could also help us understand and sympathize with others who contribute unintentionally. In addition, misunderstandings say that individuals are usually guilty of one or more of the following five imperfections.


(1) Faulty Assumptions

In this incident the child made a faulty assumption, for which we can cite a good excuse: she was a child, did not understand the cause of pain, probably never heard of an appendix. Similarly, adults make assumptions which are excusable based on their limited knowledge, or misinterpretation of the knowledge, among other reasons. The problem with faulty assumptions in a discussion is that the person making them expects everyone to receive them as fact. On the other hand, listeners find it difficult to hear the faulty assumption without labeling the speaker as foolish, or conceited. Even the character comes under scrutiny, and a major misunderstanding concerning “Who do you think you are?” can occur when the only mishap is a misinterpretation.


(2) Misplaced Focus

From the start, the little girl focused on the ball as the culprit. Generally, it is easier for individuals to select something outside them, rather than something within them, as the cause of the problem. It is a kind of defense mechanism to protect one’ self from facing reality. For example, in a discussion the individual sooner blames the other person’s tone of voice than his or her own guilt feelings aroused by the words; or focus on the wrong use of a word rather than admit resentment for the person speaking. The tendency is to ignore or cover up selfish peeves while identifying attributes in the other person as the triggers for the misunderstanding.

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(3) Inflated Ego

The little girl would be surprised to learn that a ten year old boy who never experienced pain while playing with a ball (the way she did) could understand and explain the situation better than she could. That childish mentality rears its silly head in grownups who overestimate their opinions. They list reasons to prove that their perspectives are unique and above challenge. They take it personally when someone else establishes similar authority. Sense of self, self-image, self-esteem is challenged. At that point, the primary desire is to save face, which is easily done by declaring how difficult it is to be understood, and consequently walking away.


(4) Prejudice

Without learning the correct interpretation of her situation, that little girl could grow up with an intense dislike for red beach balls. She might develop such hatred that she becomes prejudiced against anyone who owns one. Whereas an assumption expects everyone to believe, prejudice goes further and condemns everyone who does not. Discussion on religious, political or cultural differences sometimes cause misunderstandings (quarrels, falling out) among friends. The notion that a personal belief is the only right one is another major cause for misunderstandings. It does not take into consideration that people with different beliefs can be as happy or as moral. It creates a false sense of superiority.


Which of these five flaws would you have to try the hardest to control?

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(5) Poor Listening Skills

This may be the simplest, but not in any way less responsible for misunderstandings. Imagine the young girl relating her experience to someone who interrupts with a tale of his or her personal surgery, or who keeps asking for time out to take a phone call, or whose body language and facial expressions suggest disinterest. The listener will likely miss key points of the story and make irrelevant observations. The ensuing conversation will run on different frequencies and ideas will not connect. This could be the kind of conversation in which both conclude, “He wasn’t making sense,” or “All she did was confuse me.”


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Lessening the Impact

The sooner we recognize them, the easier it becomes to lessen the impact of misunderstandings in relationships—love, business or other. Here are a few suggestions, beginning with the reverse of what causes them. Practice as often as possible.

  • Make the effort to curb prejudice in attitude and words.
  • Back away from the notion that you are the most qualified ever.
  • Establish focus and maintain it.
  • Accept that your assumption could be faulty.
  • Realize that you cause your own feelings. “I feel” instead of “You make me feel.”
  • Avoid stern countenances; smile when appropriate.
  • Consider the interests of others.
  • Ask questions to help clarify the message.
  • Confess error when necessary; give and accept forgiveness.

© 2013 Dora Isaac Weithers

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28 comments

lovedoctor926 3 years ago

Useful information. I like the red beach ball example that you used. The fact that the ball aggravated her condition sounds more like it rather than bending to pick up the ball caused the pain and you have demonstrated this very clearly. Great tips and suggestions. Voted up!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

MsDora what a fun hub you have here.. I mean fun because it brought back a misunderstanding when a Vacuum sales person said come on you gotta by Electro Lux this vacuum really sucks...:) good job


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Interesting analogy, Dora, and your conclusions are right on. False assumptions are my downfall usually when there is a misunderstanding...but I realize that fact and I'm working on it. :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

The problem with faulty assumptions in a discussion is that the person making them expects everyone to receive them as fact. On the other hand, listeners find it difficult to hear the faulty assumption without labeling the speaker as foolish, or conceited. Even the character comes under scrutiny, and a major misunderstanding concerning “Who do you think you are?” can occur when the only mishap is a misinterpretation."

This is so true.

It is easy to fall into this trap and I used to be very guilty of this very thing. However I have LEARNED and am thankful I have.

thank you so much for sharing this

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps shared


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you, lovedoctor. Glad you like the example. I was that foolish little girl, and I've never forgotten my silly, childish, faulty assumption.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, your story makes me smile, too. See how a misinterpretation could change a story completely? Thank you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Billy, I love your honesty. No wonder you're such a great teacher! Thanks for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Pstraubie, thanks for sending the angels and for your affirmation on the article. Glad you're leaving the faulty assumption trap behind.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 3 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

A great article here MsDora, and that first photo sign of yours just about sums it up lol!

Misinterpretation runs riot I've found, especially when one is trying to conduct an emotionally-laden conversation with a girlfriend through private e-mail. Nuances in body language absent, tone of voice received, but not understood, sometimes totally missed altogether, and regional and cultural differences lend even more confusion to what can often turn into a comedy of errors.

Thank you for a useful Hub, and sharing.

Yours Sincerely,

R.Q.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you Romeos for reading and sharing. I appreciate your input. Nice meeting you on HP.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Hi MsDora,

What a pertinent topic for this day for me, and I know you are giving the example of the child, but I have found we adults are just as guilty of especially those false assumptions which cause so many misundertandings! Thank you for this insightful hub here, and we must be mindful of all of these factors you have pointed out here.

Voted up +++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

You're so right, Faith Reaper. The child has the excuse of being a child, but as adults who should be wiser, we're just as limited. Thank you for your input.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Misunderstandings and What They Say about Us so agree with you MsDora. Many understandings should be straightened at home usually it starts from the home. great hub!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

DDE, I agree with you. There are enough misunderstandings within the family to give us the experience of dealing with them in other forums. Thank you for your input.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 years ago from london

I enjoyed this one a lot. Very pertinent and also well written. 'The five imperfections?' You took this from somewhere, right? Chuckle and mischief intended here. I will probably one day write a piece on the five cardinal sins.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, your mischief is welcome. I'm sure that I did not grow any of the food items here, but this recipe is all mine, thank you (smile). Happy to create something you enjoy.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I find that the one I have the worst problem with is the faulty assumptions. I assume that other people don't like me when they don't hear what I am saying, rather than realizing that they may have things going on in their lives that keep their mind occupied. It is easy to do, especially since I fear being rejected by others.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, since you understand what's going on with you, I hope that makes it easier to correct and replace the faulty assumption. Can't tell the reason for your fear. Your presentations on HP are way above average. For that alone, I'd want you on my team. Thank you for sharing.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas

Great Hub and loved the first sign -- faulty assumptions go a long way toward unrest and dissention! Best/Sis


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Angela, thanks for your comment. The best to you, too.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

A useful hub with an interesting perspective and you are right, listening skills have to be honed sharp along with other skills so as to not misunderstand what others say and do.

Voted up, useful and interesting.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Rajan, thanks for your input. I appreciate, you read, your comments and your votes.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

That was a very good explanation. I find most of the time I just missed the meaning of things. I had misplaced focus.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Mylinda, glad you can diagnose yourself. Misunderstandings will be around for ever. We just have to be careful to minimize them. Thanks for your comment.


stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 3 years ago from Australia

And interesting topic and great advice as usual MsDora. I really enjoy reading your work :)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, strictlydating. Your kind comment is an encouragement to me.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

Interesting hub. I enjoyed reading it and the comments. Voted up.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Moonlake, thank you for reading, commenting and voting. I appreciate you.

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