Stumbling Blocks to Clear Communication

An Assembling God’s Puzzle video

By Fr. Garry Richmeier, CPPS.

My friends have given me some suggestions about how to communicate better in these video segments. Since they are used to communicating with me in person, there is something missing when they watch a recording of me. Maybe it’s the personal interaction that naturally happens in person.

You would think that as often as we humans communicate with each other, we’d be very good at it by now. God has given us language and many other ways to help us understand each other. Truth is, we often are not very good at communicating clearly, and we are puzzled at how misunderstandings and miscommunications happen.

In my experience, there are two mistakes we make in communication that cause us problems. The first is that we tend to guess what another person means by what they say. The second is that when we speak, we do so in a language that the other person doesn’t understand.

The first mistake, guessing, happens all the time. An example: The wife comes home and tells her husband a particular difficulty she had at work. The husband assumes (guesses) that she is asking him for a solution to the problem, whereas she is really asking him only to be supportive by listening. He then offers advice about how to solve the problem, she gets angry because that is not what she was asking for, and it becomes an argument. Many problems can be avoided by verifying (checking out) the meaning of another’s communication rather than guessing the meaning.

The second communication mistake is using the wrong language. If a person only understands English, it does not work to get our message across by speaking German. Often we are so focused on what we’re wanting to convey that we don’t focus on how the other might hear it or understand it. We need to put ourselves in the other’s “shoes” to consider what makes sense to them, not just what makes sense to us. Gary Chapman in his book “5 Love Languages” is saying somewhat the same thing. If we want to communicate love, we need to do it in a language the other understands.

Communication is hard work. Repeating, being redundant, and practicing reflective listening is hard work and sometimes tedious. But it can help us avoid many problems. A side note: Do not use email, texting, or any other means of communication besides in-person communication with things that are important. There are just too many opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Here is something to practice which might help you assure clear communication. Think of a simple statement someone might say to you, and then come up with 5 different possible meanings for that statement. Here is an example: Someone says to you “I’m going to the store.” Five different possible meanings of that statement are:

  1. Simple information about what you are going to do
  2. That person may be asking if you need anything from the store since they are going
  3. They may be telling you not to worry about them if you can’t find them in the house
  4. They may be saying they’re bored and need to get out of the house
  5. They may be saying that there’s no food in the house and they’re hungry

Being aware that a simple statement can mean different things can enable you to clarify with the person which meaning is accurate and avoid misunderstandings.

Illustration 250594266 © Peerayut Nantajeeworawat | Illustration 186385711 © StockSupply |

All of the videos in this series can be found here: Assembly God’s Puzzle.

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[Fr. Garry Richmeier, a Precious Blood priest and spiritual director, holds a Master’s of Divinity Degree from St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and a Master’s of Counseling Psychology degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist.]

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