Why language may be a source of misunderstanding


When you want to say something that you feel you are thinking it is not always easy to make it understood in the exact way you imagine it in your mind. Sometimes the words are not representative of our thoughts, that is why often when we discuss and do not understand what someone wants to express it is necessary to ask them to explain their thoughts by making sentences and describing how their feelings express the situation. Not expressing oneself correctly is akin to clumsiness.

Sometimes in a situation that can be confrontational, we tend to respond too quickly, not taking the time to think about what we really think and what the words are going to do to the person in front of us.

Are the words you think now representative of what you think when things are going well? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t be employees. It is true that it is difficult when we are in a tense situation to take the time to calm down in real-time and not let words slip out that we will regret. However, it is better not to hurt an important person in your life in favour of a quarrel and words you don’t mean, said impulsively. Learning to control yourself is a complicated but not impossible thing.

Misunderstandings also occur when two people have a different culture, e.g. an event that will be very pejorative for one person may be very positive for the other. Not only a difference in point of view but it depends on the culture of the person, the way they were brought up etc. You can also find this kind of misunderstanding when you do not speak the same language, because mistakes are common and maybe you thought a word meant one thing when in fact it meant another. Sometimes this is harmless and the two people simply find themselves in a communicative impasse because their reference to the definition of words is not the same. Sometimes it can be more complicated, you may end up with a person who is offended or even outraged in front of you and in the worst case they will think that your intentions about them are wrong.

It’s not as bad as that but sometimes when you’re talking to a person, often in a different language you can’t always identify the subject correctly or also you didn’t understand that the person had moved on to a different subject in the meantime. This can make the person feel uncomfortable, laugh or sometimes upset, for example, if you were talking about the festivals in London this summer and the person in the meantime tells you that last summer their dog died and that they are having a vigil this weekend and you don’t understand that they have changed the subject and you say great I can’t wait to be there. The person may be surprised and not know what to tell you, they may even get angry.

A lot of things can come into play in the way you express yourself, sometimes you are cynical or ironic or whatever, and it totally changes the meaning of what you want to say. Some people will not always understand and will either be offended or your little joke will not have had the desired impact. Cynicism if understood can also be a source of conflict, so be careful when using it with someone. If you are not sure what the person in front of you is implying, simply ask them.

Take some time to think about whether you are able and capable of making yourself understood in the right way or not. If so, take time to calm down, clear your head and think about what you really think about the situation. Once you feel ready to have a discussion, control yourself, stay calm about what the person is saying because they may not have stepped back as much as you have and maybe overwhelmed by the situation, always keep this in mind to be compassionate and handle the conflict or discussion in a mature, adult way, taking care not to hurt anyone.

When you perceive that the person in front of you is offended or does not understand what you have just said, apologies for expressing yourself badly, but the whole context as you see it and try to make the person understand the way you thought the thing to avoid misunderstandings. Before any conversation with a person from a different culture or language than your own, it is best to warn them that you may not use the right words and to ask them to ask you questions about the meaning of your words when they are in doubt.

If the person tells you that you are losing track of the discussion and you find yourself a little lost and don’t know what to say, don’t hesitate to tell the person that you think you have missed information if they can repeat it more slowly so that you are sure of your answer and don’t say anything. Contextualize when in doubt with phrases like, “Are you still talking about the London festivities?” “Or did I just follow up and change the subject?”. If you think that doing this will make you look stupid and that you are afraid of the person’s opinion about you don’t think about it anymore, it shows your interest in following the discussion, your interest in what the person in front of you is saying and your involvement in this conversation to take the other person’s emotions into consideration.

If you have experienced some incomprehensible situations or exchanges full of misunderstandings you can discuss them in the language exchange section of our site.

Written by: Lisa Lambert, Staff Writer

Leave a Reply