Communication and misunderstanding

Communication is the action to transfer thoughts, ideas, and knowledge from one person to another, and the process is bidirectional.

Good communication can be ensured through confirmation for correct understanding of the person communicated.  Correct understanding requires comprehension of the communication context, because the same word can have different meanings depending on the context.  For example, the meaning of the word “operation” differs in business, military, and medical situations.  Context includes the culture of the person and the common knowledge in the industry or environment of the topic, among others.

Risk of miscommunication rises when thoughts are implied or the context of the discussion is not understood well.  The communicator may also make mistaken assumptions about the listener, such as on the background knowledge on the subject, personal values, or attitude in the communication, and speak in ways that are difficult to interpret.  On the listener side, the person may not be fully engaged in the conversation if the subject is not important or the subject is boring.  In another case, the listener may be waiting for the other person to say specific key words.  This case includes the situation where the listener is searching for a solution to a problem for which the listener has a preferred or a predetermined solution.  In this case, all other information may be disregarded and the target information may be misinterpreted in the process.  In yet another special case, the listener may not be able or allowed to ask questions if doing so may be considered inappropriate or impossible, in the setting.

People use different tactics and select information to communicate and to withhold.  While normal conversation can proceed without full understanding of the contents, critical information, such as information required for making decisions with significant consequences, should be understood correctly.  In this sense, the manner and the language of communication matter.