Common Causes for Miscommunication in Texts, Emails and DMs

young woman reading text message

I’ve spent a lot of time observing and researching miscommunications lately and something that I can’t seem to satisfy is the thought that we spend SO much time looking at each other’s words on a screen instead of listening to each other through a phone call or face-to-face interaction. This led me to wonder if we are developing a habit of reading in our own tone of voice and how that could affect the way we listen in real-time.

Let’s look at an example: When my brothers and I started using cellphones and texting, we soon realized we were all experiencing something similar … when receiving texts from our parents, they often seemed upset with us. When we confronted them about it, they were utterly shocked.

Why were they shocked? And how did we resolve this?

We soon learned that while my brothers and I were familiar with sending emojis and abbreviated texts filled with lol’s and hahaha’s, my parents had years of experience communicating in a very different way, and probably thought of this as unnecessary and childish.

While our texts would look something like this:

Ok, gr8!

Our parents’ would write this:

K, great.

Our parents used proper grammar and punctuation. However, to us, it felt sharp, short and unpleasant. Clearly, my brothers and I were misreading the texts all along.

When I reflect on this miscommunication, I see three obvious reasons for it:

  1. assumptions
  2. generational differences
  3. lack of clarification

Let’s say this was said on the phone, we would have heard their tone of voice. And in-person, we would also see in their facial expressions and body language that they were not upset.

This exact situation happens on the job and in our personal lives constantly. Whether it’s through text, email, DM’s or Messenger, it is crucial to be clear in our messaging and keep the other person in mind while writing.

Ask yourself this: How will they perceive it?

Can you think of a time when you misread a message? Did it affect your reaction? How did you feel when you realized you misunderstood? What did you learn from it?


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