Processing Errors: “That’s Not What I Heard! “

While specialized language such as slang or jargon can act as a barrier to shared meaning, there are other barriers that public speakers need to be aware of. It’s probably no surprise to you that when we speak impulsively or without much forethought, we often cause a miscommunication the listener simply didn’t understand what we said in the way we intended because we didn’t take enough time to frame the message clearly. You’ve probably begun to accept that misunderstandings are a natural byproduct of communication.

Miscommunication has many causes. Think how difficult it must be for someone from another country to understand our idioms, slang, and puns. When we say, “take a seat, ” you and I know that simply means to sit down. If we took the words literally, however, we’d be tempted to take the chair and carry it away with us.

Our perceptions also play a part in misconstrued messages. When we say, “I’m too tired to see you tonight, ” that message might be interpreted by the recipient as, “I don’t think you’re important. ”