Communicating Through the Differences

Anatomy of a Pinch

In our daily interactions we often misinterpret the behaviour of others. The assumptions we make are a major contributing factor to the breakdown of communication and the escalation of conflict. When people are under stress associated with conflict, the tendency to misinterpret each other is greatly increased.

We often assume what the other person’s intention is from the effect that his/her action had on us. If I am hurt by the actions of another person I will tend to assume s/he intended to hurt me. However, we tend to assume that the other person will correctly interpret the intent of our actions regardless of how we deliver them. If our intent was to help, we may assume the other person feels helped and should appreciate us.

Usually the action itself is the only part that is public. In conflict situations the gap between our intentions and the effect of our actions can become wider and wider. An effective approach in resolving conflicts is therefore to make “public” more of what is usually “private.”

Check out statements like, “I thought that…” Such phrases may be indicators of assumptions that need to be clarified. Similarly, if you are negatively affected by the behaviour of another person, do not simply make assumptions about his/her intention. Instead, inquire about the intent and/or inform the person of the effect his/her actions have had on you.

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