“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Ann and I were sitting at a Starbucks having a Define-The-Relationship conversation. Like so many others falling in love, I wanted to define our relationship without needing to use the standard terms – dating, courting, going-out, etc. I wanted to define our relationship as essentially those things but without conjuring up particular boxes. Therefore, I described that I wanted to get married, that I thought she might be the one I would marry and that I would like to find out. She said she felt the same way.
On the way home, I congratulated myself on being such a great communicator. I don’t need those words others have invented, I can communicate my message without them. The next night when I picked Ann up, I brought flowers and we had a good evening. Later that week, we drove to meet a group of friends up in the mountains and she said, “Since Tracy and I aren’t dating anyone right now, we’ve become pretty close.”
Wait. You’re not dating anyone? I asked myself. I didn’t say we were dating, but it would seem like one might consider us to be dating. I responded, “That’s interesting, so how would you describe our relationship?” To which she stated, “I’m really confused about that”.
Doh! Apparently, my cleverness was not so clever. Fortunately, we clarified this using more standard language which lead to our subsequent engagement and marriage.
So when I saw the quote above, it reminded me about the biggest problem with most miscommunications – both parties believe that communication has taken place. They would seek clarification if there was confusion, but neither side is confused. It just turns out they both walk away with different understandings.
Miscommunication happens. When things are critical, we can over communicate to make sure everyone is on the same page, but otherwise, we’re best simply fixing things as confusion comes up. Neither party is to blame, it’s simply the nature of communication.