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5 Common Communication Mistakes to Avoid

There are so many complications and mistakes that can distort our modern-day communication, yet the words we use are not always the instigator of the conflict. Sometimes a simple look or the wrongly assumed tone can cause an unexpected reaction.

Here are five common mistakes we make in communication – try to consider how you can avoid them!

Too much information

This is where the key points are drowned out by overwhelming attention to irrelevant detail. Remember, avoid complexity at all costs. It can make the receiver feel inferior and lead to a misunderstanding of expectations.

The result can be disastrous, especially if there is a chance that the receiver may be embarrassed or sent in the wrong direction. We have all seen the results of what we thought was a harmless error in perception, that resulted in a catastrophic reaction.

5 Communication Mistakes to Avoid
5 Communication Mistakes to Avoid
Frame of Reference

Where misinterpretation is due to the language or an implication of tone, it can trigger a defensive reaction. Too often we are victims by how we perceive our environment, we all have filters such as prejudices.

Frames of reference can also be attached to status. For example, if an MD sends an email to a junior, there may be a knee-jerk reaction of concern or amplification of responsibility.

The long, long chain of command

Red tape can reshape a clear message so-much-so that the objective can land miles from the intended call to action. Likewise, the dreaded Chinese whispers, where a message is verbally conveyed through many people, can leave the meaning distorted.

Factors that play a pivotal role also include the skill level we have to first understand the message and then translate it. Variations in tone of voice, as well as a misunderstanding of purpose, or even changing a word can unintentionally change the meaning.

For example, ‘we successfully enrolled 20 people into tests’ to ‘we only enrolled 20 people into tests’. Notice the huge difference in meaning!

What is the purpose?

With any message, the fundamental construction should be focused around the purpose. Why am I sending this, who is receiving it, what do I need them to do? Ensure that when checking the purpose of the message it is clear, concise and correct.


As the saying goes, assumption is the power of mistakes. I assume you understood, or I assume that you knew what I wanted, has to be arguably the most common reason why communication goes wrong.

Whether it’s those little innuendos hidden between the lines, or a misplaced idea that everyone works from the same set of standards. Assuming can be a very easy trap to fall into.

What can we do?

Check on understanding is the first stage. Ideally, ask a leading question to the receiver to summarise or give an explanation to the process.

Asking for their thoughts on how to solve or move forward is a deliberate step to check on understanding, to lead in an assertive manner to and allow the other person to think about a view or an opinion.

It is important to consider the other person’s point of view. Just those few extra minutes can greatly reduce the rate of misinterpretation. Can you really afford not to invest the time?

By Jacob Ahmadzai

Helping businesses improve performance with proven learning and development solutions. London based with a global reach.