Recognizing Misunderstandings & Points of Disagreement

Instructor: Jessica Mercado

I completed my BA in Criminal Justice in 2015. Currently working on my MS in Homeland Security Management.

In this lesson, you will learn why misunderstandings occur and how to identify them. This lesson will also cover the different areas where people are most likely to have disagreements.

Can You Repeat That? I Couldn't Hear You!

You are on the phone, planning to meet your friend later. You friend is at home, but you are at a soccer game where it is loud. Your friend said to meet at a local gym. You thought you heard him say to meet him at the coffee shop, which is on the same street. Once you arrive and have been waiting for 10 minutes, you realize that you may have misunderstood your friend.

Why did this happen? What are some other ways that misunderstandings could occur?

Understanding Why Misunderstandings Occur

Misunderstandings between recipients and speakers can occur often because the speakers and the recipients have different mindsets or thought processes. Different individuals, because of their different interpretations of words, varied cultures, and unique experiences, can easily fall into unintended misunderstandings in their discussions. Misunderstandings can occur between speakers and recipients in other situations, such as situations in which:

  • The speaker has a different perception of what is real and what is not. The speaker's reality does not correlate with actual reality.
  • The speaker tries to explain or discuss something that he or she has limited knowledge on.
  • The speaker has difficulty expressing his or her thoughts in a clear enough way that the recipient can understand.
  • The speaker does not speak clearly. For example, he or she may mumble, stutter, or talk in a low volume.
  • The environment is distracting. For example, loud music, loud talking, traffic, and cleaning noises can distract both speakers and recipients from their discussions.
  • The recipient misinterprets what the speaker said.
  • The recipient connects what the speaker says to the wrong objective.

While you were trying to talk to your friend, you had a misunderstanding because the outside environment was a distraction. You were unable to hear your friend clearly because of all the outside noise.

Points of Disagreement, Explained

Points of disagreement occur mainly because of misunderstandings. This can be because individuals have different points of view, which can lead to disagreements, just because of the individuals' different interpretations of what is being discussed. Seven causes of disagreement include:

1. Facts that differ in relation to the discussed topic. Individuals do not always obtain their information from the same sources. Different sources provide different background or information on topics. When individuals try to discuss a topic, but have different facts supporting their arguments, disagreements can arise.

2. Different interpretations of word meanings. Not every word has the same meaning to everyone else. One word may mean one thing to one person; it may mean something completely different to someone else. An example of this would be the word, ''bike''. When some people say this word, they mean a bicycle, while others mean a motorcycle or dirt bike. When there is not an agreement on what a word means, confusion and disagreements can erupt because listeners may misinterpret what the speaker is trying to convey.

3. People's values. People care about different things. What would be important to one person, might not hold value to someone else. One person may hold obtaining a college degree as very important, while someone else finds college pointless. Differing values can lead to not understanding one another and not being able to hold a conversation without disagreement.

4. False agreement or disagreement. This means that an individual may disagree with someone just because the individual doesn't like the other person, not necessarily because the individual disagrees on anything related to the discussion topic. It can also mean an individual will agree or support something just to get approval from an individual or peers.

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