Effective communication avoids misunderstandings.
It can also clear up existent misunderstandings.
In our quest to be understood, we may accidentally slip into using one of these versions of a potentially manipulative accusation:
“You misunderstood me.”
“You must have misunderstood me.”
“You don’t get it; you’re not listening.”
“If you really heard what I said, you’d understand.”
Even though our intent may be sincere, this is a subtle way to shift blame for communication failure to the other person.
And, if you get skilled at it, it’s one of the primary methods of gaslighting another person when your intentions are insincere.
If we use our maturity model to explore this, “you misunderstood me” is a level two statement. It may be technically true, but it avoids responsibility by placing the blame elsewhere.
So what do you do?
The next time you’re tempted to use some version of “you misunderstood me,” say something like this:
“I must have been unclear.”
“Let me try again. I didn’t say that right.”
“Can I start over here? I said that poorly.”
Or go all the way above the line, and forget about yourself for a second, and ask a version of, “Do you feel understood by me right now, or is there something I’m missing?”
Using these statements, or statements like these, will make any critical or difficult conversations about misunderstandings go better.
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