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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Would you like to conquer miscommunication?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Miss Understanding depicts a common type of miscommunication

Have your messages ever been misunderstood or misinterpreted?

Have you ever received a text or an email and weren’t quite sure how to take it?

What causes miscommunication?

To answer that question I have put “faces” on 10 of the most common ways we miscommunicate. In my signature speech, these “contestants” vie for the title of “Mis-Communication.”

Personalizing miscommunication gives us a concrete villain who may be easier to defeat than an abstract concept.

Allow me to introduce “Miss Understanding,” also known as “what you said and what I thought you said are NOT the same.” There are so many cases of Miss Understanding.

The Case of Miss Understanding

Have you heard the one about the judge interviewing the woman going through a divorce? The judge asked, “What are the grounds for your divorce?” To which the woman replied, “About 14 acres.”

Judge: “No, I mean what is the foundation for your case?”

Woman: “Concrete and brick.”

Judge: (sigh) “What I mean is, describe your relations.”

Woman: “I have an aunt and uncle in town, oh, and the in-laws.”

Judge: (shaking her head) “No, do you have a grudge?”

Woman: “No, mam, we have a carport.”

Judge: “Does your husband ever beat you up?”

Woman: “Oh, yes, he always gets up before me on weekends.”

Judge: (exasperated) “Lady, why do you want a divorce?”

Woman: “Oh, I never wanted a divorce. My husband does. He says he can’t communicate with me!”

Miss Understanding, is definitely a contender for Mis-Communication.

When we miscommunicate, who is at fault?

I think we can agree that misunderstandings are common between spouses, as well as among other family members. Would you agree that they are also common in the workplace and basically anywhere?

Do you think most people think they are responsible for miscommunication or blame others?

According to the report, The State of Miscommunication (1), which describes the results of a survey of 1,344 employees regarding miscommunication in the workplace, 50% of the employees said they were rarely or never responsible for miscommunication although 83% said miscommunication occurs frequently or very frequently.

Could we agree we have an accountability problem in addition to a miscommunication problem?

Conquering Miscommunication

I believe the first step in conquering miscommunication is owning it – we all play a role. In chapter 3 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, we address the necessity of making sure your message is clearly understood by taking responsibility for preventing miscommunication:

“Successful communication is accurately and clearly conveyed. It is necessary for the words, expressions, and examples to be meaningful to the audience and for the audience to clearly understand the sender’s intended message. A successful message results in the desired outcomes and objectives set forth during the communication design process.

If a message is misunderstood, it is largely the fault of the communicator. True, an audience may be hard of hearing, or distracted, or make incorrect assumptions, but even in these instances, the communicator needs to take the lead in correcting or preventing these problems:

  • For an audience that can’t hear, use amplification and subtitles.

  • For the distracted audience, gain and maintain their attention through effective attention-getters and engagement.

  • Prevent incorrect assumptions through completing a needs assessment and asking good questions.

Don’t blame the audience for not following the message – it is the communicator’s responsibility to clarify the message. Use words they understand, illustrations that are meaningful, and check for understanding. Make sure the audience “gets it.” Pay attention to the feedback they convey and respond appropriately.

Communication that is successful resonates with the audience. Most audiences want and need an intellectual connection, which provides new and current information, and an emotional connection, which personalizes the information and shows application of how they can benefit from what they have heard. Data and facts provide the intellectual connection that is made with an audience, while stories provide an emotional connection.” (2)

Would you like to conquer miscommunication? Me too! Let’s make it our goal to create effective communication – not miscommunication.

“Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.” ~ Freeman Teague, Jr.


  2. Mayfield B, Stetzler S. Effective Nutrition Communication is Strategically Designed. In: Mayfield B, ed. Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago, IL. 2020, page 47.

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