Based on the daily writing prompts on Twitter, I write very short stories (#vss365) about the Captain, First Mate and Deckhand in every-day situations.
“Ah. The xyloid protrusions seem to be ubiquitous here. That should facilitate disembarking.”
The Captain pointed, then yelped when the Deckhand kicked him in the shin.
“Pier!” growled the Deckhand. “Just call ’em piers so we know what you mean!”
We experience the world through our personal frame of reference, but often forget that other people don’t share that same frame. As a result, we often assume that what we know is also known to everyone else, too. Unfortunately, that is now how it works.
You may know what you mean when you speak, but the person you are talking to can’t read your mind. It’s not just complicated words, but any part of your language that doesn’t mean to them what it means to you.
An example we ALL recognise:
“Can you hand me the…thingie.”
“That thing, over there. No, not that. The other. No, the other other!”
You know you mean the screwdriver, but they can’t know that.
A less obvious situation is when the words or intonation you use have a different the implication for the other person than what you meant. A word like ‘consequence’ may to one person be a harmless synonym for ‘results in’, but to another, it may imply punishment.
This mismatch of what words can mean causes frustrations and anxiety with both persons, because their idea of the situation is now vastly different due to their different interpretation of that one word – but neither person realises that they are not talking about the same thing!
Preventing this is nigh impossible, because every person’s frame of reference is unique. The solution? When you feel the conversation taking an unexpected turn, ask for clarification from the other person and/or clarify your own interpretation, so you can catch the miscommunication early.