Communication often gets strained and confused when the sender and receiver make assumptions about what a word means. For example, what does opportunity mean?
Opportunity has different meanings depending on who is saying it and for what purpose. It may mean: possibility to do something. And it may mean something completely different.
In a recent conversation with an executive coaching client, we were referring to the Opportunities coming his way. (meaning the new projects and business) He looked at us strangely and asked us nervously if we had heard about some layoffs or something. After exploring why he asked that – we all discovered that his meaning of Opportunity and ours were opposite.
In their organization’s culture, the word Opportunity had been substituted for …. wait for it… Problems. Huge difference in meaning.
What assumptions do you make in communication? We have learned that especially the most generally used words often have very different meanings. To clarify what is being meant…not said, the next time someone uses a general word, ask them to clarify what they mean or to expand on the situation.And if you are using a general word, then make sure that the person you are communicating with understands your meaning and is not inserting their own meaning.
Some often misunderstood words include:
There are many more but you get the idea.
What are some of your experiences with misunderstood and confused communications which boiled down to an assumption of meaning?
Would love to hear from you.