Communication bumps

April 8, 2015

Communication bumps

How often do you say something and get the response you weren’t expecting? When you are misunderstood or misinterpreted – do you go with it or correct the person?

Being an immigrant – miscommunication happens more frequently than is typical. I say one thing that means something in South Africa, but it’s interpreted as something else here. Or I say something and because I have an accent, people think I’m saying something else. My name is a good example; you’d think the name Debbi would be easy. You’re wrong. When I speak to people on the phone and give my name, somehow they hear Bibi, Becky, DeeDee but never Debbi. The best was the other day someone thought I said David (which coincidentally happens to be my husband’s name)! If there are no long-term repercussions, I sometimes just go with it – it’s often easier that way. Sometimes trying to correct people makes things worse, so I typically take it on a case-by-case basis.

Over the years, I have learnt to continually make adjustments and evaluate the effectiveness of how I communicate. For example, I often say Debra instead of Debbi.

Below are some tips that I’ve learnt to apply in my own business, to make sure that I’m communicating clearly. Effective communication is a critical tool in any business, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing it well.

  1. Listen effectively. This will help give you clues as to whether/not the person understands what you’re saying.
  2. Listen to your gut – if you don’t get the response you expected, it’s often because they’ve misinterpreted what you’re saying. Make a joke of it and clarify what you meant to say.
  3. Take responsibility for miscommunicating so that you can improve, i.e. don’t always assume that it was the other person who didn’t communicate properly.
  4. Make eye contact and look at the person’s face and reaction as you’re speaking, to ensure that they’re “with” you.
  5. Speak slower than you would normally, especially if you are giving presentations.
  6. Assume that if you don’t get an appropriate answer, you’ve probably been misunderstood.
  7. If you have any inkling that you’re being misunderstood, simply ask the person if they understand what you’re saying.
  8. If you’re on the phone, ask if you can follow up with an email to clarify that you’re on the same page.
  9. Don’t take it personally if they misinterpret what you’ve said.
  10. Lastly, it’s fine to let some things slide if there are no long-term effects!

Image credit: by Daniel Zana, via


Debbi Arnold

Debbi Arnold has been coaching small business owners for over a decade. With a strong marketing and business background, she believes in keeping things simple and relevant to your customer, business and product. Her coaching style is honest, direct and in sync with your values, personality and goals. At DA Coaching & Consulting, you and Debbi build a plan together, so that you are motivated and inspired to achieve your goals.