What do you say?
Do you apologize, even if it wasn’t your fault?
Do you take some losses to pacify the customer, at risk of setting up a pattern of being a doormat?
What happens when a customer leaves a vicious negative review about your company online?
Or when your co-worker misconstrues an email you sent, and is now bad mouthing you behind your back?
It’s always unpleasant to deal with misunderstandings and people who are upset.
But miscommunications crop up every now and then despite our best efforts.
The good news is that with proper communication, you can usually resolve the miscommunication without lasting damage, and you may even emerge the better from it.
The goal of communication to emphasize with the other person, while getting them to see your side as well, and working together to find a resolution.
In order for people who are aggrieved at the miscommunication to be willing to work it out together, you must first show them empathy. This lets them know that you care that they’re upset, and understand why they are.
Here are some ways you can communicate to make other people feel understood and validated:
- 1. Listen with the goal of understanding. Your mind can process information faster than a speaker can send it, so you may need to develop discipline in listening. Be mindful and concentrate on important points. Summarize and repeat them in your mind as the other person speaks so you reinforce your understand.
- 2. Verify what you think you heard. “So you’re saying that ... Am I understanding this correctly?”
- 3. To fully understand your customer, you must listen for expression. In a telephone conversation, there are no visual cues to guide you, so pay particular attention to the speaker’s vocal and verbal expression.
- 4. Encourage your customer to speak openly. If you notice him or her hesitating or evading a point, don’t ignore it; probe gently to see why.
- 5. Listen objectively. Keep an open mind during telephone conversation. Don’t prejudge. Try not to guess what the speaker will say next. Control your own reactions if and when the conversation touches your emotions.
- 6. Stay involved in the conversation. Keep your attention focused. It’s easy to let your mind stray, especially when you don’t have eye contact and face-to-face presence to keep you interested. Don’t turn off your attention or let your attention wander during the call. Concentrate. When you follow these steps, you are giving the message to the other person that you genuinely care and want to work out a solution for them. The antidote to a misunderstanding is to give the message that you are doing your best to fully understand them now. It’s easy to get dragged into the anger, but to truly solve it satisfactorily for both of you, good communication is essential.
Now, how to proceed from here?
This will help you come across as sincere. The person you are speaking to will be more likely to shed their defensive stance and switch to solution mode.
“Chloe, I’m sorry my words led you to think I was mocking your contribution to the project. That is not what I meant, but I should have taken a minute to phrase it with more clarity.”
Praise the other part in the conflict. Tell them why it’s worth it to you to solve the misunderstanding.
“Andrew, you are a valued customer and your business means a lot to us. We want you to be successful, and we’re sorry that the misunderstanding between us led to you being unable to fulfill your deadline. We want to make it up to you and continue helping your business grow and succeed.”
Address Potential Consequences.
What has the miscommunication led to for you and for the company? Why is it a problem?
Be open with the other party about what you think would be a good outcome, and encourage them to be open with you as well. Once you have clarified and agreed on what the end goal should be, you can start taking the steps necessary to achieve that.
In conclusion, while communication mishaps can happen, and do happen many times, as long as you have good communication practices for, you’ll be able to grow from the miscommunications and resolve them peacefully.