"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss.

Just like glue appearing to be very smooth until you touch it, communication can seem to be that way too, at least until you actually try to undue miscommunication already out on the table. Today we should all be very concerned that miscommunication is much more prevalent than good communication. After all, this is the main way we interact in life, work, and play so we owe it to each other to get this right.

Peak communication (about 5% of what goes on)—as the accurate exchange of ideas between people sharing similar perspectives—is quite enjoyable and meaningful; but all the rest is somewhere in between somewhat annoying to very distressful to downright fatal. How in the world do we repair the terrible realities that miscommunication has caused?

The entry point into untangling the miscommunication process is to understand the major sources of un-enjoyable communication and then either: (a) learn to avoid some of these irresolvable conflicts in perspective differences altogether, or (b) work on understanding and improving some of the others that have a better prognosis. Here are a dozen criss-crosses in major perspectives between communicators that sometimes can’t have a happy ending. Not to paint too much doom and gloom but it is important to keep in mind that:

• We all have different perspectives on all these things to some degree or or another.
• These differences in perspectives can piggy-back on one another compoundedly to make matters much more difficult to understand and unravel.
• There are many more differences in perspectives people can have in addition to these twelve.

1. Win-Lose vs. Win-Win Mentality

This difference is really reflective of our ideal vs. real selves. Practically speaking, we all resort to wanting to win even if another person has to lose, knowing that it would be much better to try and help everyone win and do away with losing altogether. But that being said, miscommunication is bound to occur between people having even the slightest of difference on which side of the fence they are on this basic perspective. This conflict makes for very stressful communciation.

2. Assertive vs. Passive, Aggressive or Passive-Aggressive Approach

This perspective is most important in the way you approach conflicts and how you try to resolve them. Oddly, it doesn’t matter which approach you use, so long as both are compatible with each other, in the sense of “agreeing on disagreeing.” However, uproar will eventually occur when people criss-cross in using different approaches to solve conflicts which involve differences that are wrapped underneath tightly in feelings and strong investments for certain outcomes.

3. Optimistic vs. Pessimistic Outlook

Only in the extremes does this difference in perspective register on the miscommunication Richter Scale. Besides most of us are somewhere in between extremes in leaning one way or the other and not vested enough to assume our viewpoint is worth imposing onto someone else. The thing about it is that negativity can be highly contagious and so if you enjoy being optimistic then it might be more enjoyable hanging out and communicating with other people with a similar perspective.

4. Trusting vs. Untrusting Nature

Unfortunately trust doesn’t necessarily breed trust, but the opposite seems to hold true. You really can’t change your nature as a trusting person or distrusting one and communication between these diametrically opposed perspectives will filter out too much information that isn’t trusted by the other. The level of trust between people is so different that it is a wonder that any good communication goes on at all. Peak communication is what occurs when two very trusting people get together.

5. Theoretical vs. Practical Orientation

Those who are theoretical want to see and talk about all the possible applications and extending metaphorical meanings of great ideas for the betterment of mankind, whereas practical people just want concrete, usable solutions to solve problems at hand now, so they can move on to dealing with the next one. Here we have a core conflict about what is most important and of course we all want to feel what is important to us should be important to others. And we don’t want to be wrong about this. Need I say any more?

6. Thinking vs. Feeling Preference

It is easy to talk about thoughts but very difficult to talk about feelings. That may be because thoughts aren’t as physically noticeable (or troublesome) as feelings. Another reason may be that we are never quite sure what we are feeling or what is causing it, other than it either feels good or not good. Maybe we have invented too many words to describe what we think we are feeling in different situations. Some say there are only two energies—positive and negative, or love and fear in terms of emotions. Positive feelings are probably a sign to let you know you are moving in the right direction in your communication, whereas negatively flavored feelings—whatever you want to call them—are just suggesting you rethink your words or approach.

7. “Parent, Adult, and Child” Personality Part Conflicts

Back in the early seventies Transactional Analysis was a helpful perspective to understand and correct miscommunication. All people do in fact have a parent, adult and child part of their personalities from which they talk and act. The trouble is that each part itself, such as the parent part, has its own conflicts like between its nurturing and controlling needs. When you start criss-crossing between these needs you usually get uproar that is very distressful. On the other hand, very enjoyable and meaningful exchangers can occur between two nurturing parent parts, two rational adults or even two fun and spontaneous child parts.

8. Verbal vs. Non-Verbal Clues

The trouble here is that today, even words have different verbal and non-verbal meanings to different people and we really need to work on that more than trying to analyze what a person’s non-verbal communication means. Given that most behavior is unconscious, it is probably more productive to try and communicate the conscious thoughts and feelings we have. If we improve verbal or non-verbal communication that is conscious, we will be making great progress in unraveling the miscommunication mystery.

9. Defensive vs. Supportive Tone

This particular distinction was first introduced by Jack Gibb in the late sixties. Simply put, a defensive tone shuts down communication while a supportive one opens it up. A defensive tone comes about when one person inadvertently, or on purpose, conveys insinuations of things like superiority, dishonesty, over-certainty, manipulation, intolerance, insensitivity, judgment, rudeness and over-control. To the welcome contrary, a supportive tone is created when things like equality, empathy, honesty, spontaneity, positivism. acceptance, tentativeness, tolerance, respect and freedom are communicated.

10. Absolute vs. Relative Morality

This is why things like politics and religion do not make for good communication topics. There is no way we will ever know for sure if right and wrong are absolutes or more of a function of a particular situation we are in at a specific time. Arguing different, highly personal realities like this one is really impossible, so why bother trying? Believe what you must, but keep it to yourself unless you are asked. And make sure you are living your own life according to which belief speaks to you loudest.

11. Personal vs. Impersonal Style

Stories that hit a positive personal nerve can be sealed in cement for a lifetime, but hit the negative nerve and see what happens. The trick here is to communicate positive things personally and negative ones impersonally. However, this is often not the way communication goes, especially between people on different sides of this particular perspective fence. We should all try to be fence straddlers on this perspective so we can respond appropriately as the situation may call for.

12. High Energy vs. Low Energy

I am a particularly high energy person and have noticed that I don’t interact very enjoyably with low energy people. But, I have also noticed that when I slip into my own funky, low energy self, I don’t mind the compassionate side of communication with others coming with acceptance, tolerance, understanding and the freedom to grow back to my normal self on my own time schedule. I guess there is a real personal lesson here.

Good communication is very hard work, because these conflicting perspectives are the deceivingly smooth glue part of communication. The only real option here is to avoid the most difficult criss-crosses in extreme perspectives and work on understanding and improving the rest, with one person at a time.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including his latest book “Reality Repair” coming shortly from Global Vision Press. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net