What is miscommunication and why does it happen? – rough draft

The Cambridge online dictionary defines it as “failure to communicate ideas or intentions successfully

Wikipedia defines it as “Miscommunication ("mis" + "communication") is defined as a failure to communicate adequately and properly.[1] It is one of the types of Communication barrier.”

These are both good definitions of the word and if from the links from the Cambridge online dictionary you can go down the rabbit hole of what each word within the definition means and how they are defined to fully understand that definition.

Failure: “the fact something or someone is not succeeding”

Communicate: “to share information with others by speaking, writing, moving your body, or using other signals”

Ideas: “A suggestion or plan for doing something”

Intentions: “something that you want and plan to do”

Successfully: “in a way that achieves the results wanted or hoped for”

So if you combine all of those definitions we could say miscommunication “is the fact something or someone is failing or not succeeding to share ideas, information, suggestions or plans for doing something with others by speaking, writing, moving your body, or using other signals, in a way that achieves the results wanted or hoped for.”

That is a good definition of the problem of the person wishing to communicate an idea or thought and failing to do so. But it doesn’t cover the hearer, reader or receiver of the communication and what is happening when this misread, misunderstand or fail to accept or comprehend what is being communicated.

You could argue that is up to the communicator to ensure their communication is clear and is understood by the person or people receiving the information. And to a degree you are right, if we want to communicate effectively we should take some ownership, training and understanding of how we can improve our skills in this area. When, however, you are talking about mass communication this can become almost impossible to check and confirm understanding. But even with a face to face, one on one, interaction we can have miscommunication.

There are many factors behind this that if we gain an understanding of we can indeed improve our communication skills and can therefore become better at getting our message across. But we also need to, as receivers of information, need to take responsibility to ensure we have understood what is communicated with us. 

Communication is not just one way. It can be but a lot of time it is a two-way street. Therefore, there is an ownness on those communicating to fully understand others and respond and communicate back clearly.

We also need to understand that just because we are communicating something or someone is sharing information with us a lack of acceptance is not necessarily the same as a breakdown in communication or understanding. Misinformation and disinformation is shared and communicated at breakneck speed to us daily due to either incompetence in areas becoming communicated about or by bad actors looking to purposefully mislead. This then makes it harder to make sense of what is really going on, what is truth and what is fact.

If we take on top of this the way that we make sense of the world and all of the information that is coming at us. With the millions of bits of data coming at all of our senses every second and whilst our limbic and mammalian brain, neocortex and the physiological system is picking up decoding and analysing most of this information on an unconscious level, our sense-making and analytical mind can only pick up a very small fraction of that information. Because of this our minds and senses are broken up and either accepted, deleted or distorted around what fits our worldview, which happens on a subconscious level. This is the entire reason police officers take statements from as many witnesses as possible to get a more rounded and complete view.

Based on our beliefs and core values our subconscious filters out what doesn’t support our worldview and lets through what does. That means we filter out whatever conflicts with these core values and beliefs. Now we need to be clear here, this does not mean that if we are open to debate and listening to another opinion it doesn’t mean we cannot be convinced or change our opinion but to do so this information needs to be communicated in a way that appeals to our core values or beliefs. When someone communicates with us in a way that conflicts with our beliefs we will ignore, delete or distort this information unless it is done in a way that appeals to our cover values. If it addresses and aligns with our core values it can help move or shift our beliefs.

Knowing this, we can improve our communication skills by really understanding the people we share information with. If we gain a deep understanding of who they are, how they think, what their beliefs are we can profile their core values and look at our message to see how it appeals to these or not. We can then reframe our message from one group of people to another to ensure better success and less chance of deletion, distortion or generalisation. We can also take a step back when we are repelled by someone’s communication with us and instead of reacting negatively we can refine our analytical thinking to try and understand what is behind what they are saying, what are their belief systems and core values that are driving their communication and what are their drivers.

We can go down a rabbit hole here and there may be a good reason to do this. If we can, by their communication, behaviourally profile the people we are in dialogue with we can better understand them, the reasons for their actions, words, belief systems and values. We can do this through their verbal, vocal and physical communication but we can also do this through their writing.

We can also do this by effective active listening and checking our understanding of what they are communicating if we can put aside our biases in the process and filter out our own conflicts with their message and our values and belief systems.

Neither is easy in the heat of the moment but with some understanding, training and practice we can become better at this and find that we can communicate more effectively by understanding where they are coming from and ensuring we are responding by understanding how to frame our message so that it will land more effectively. It is this element of communication and miscommunication I want to address in this book as well as what we do to filter out the bullshit misinformation and purposeful disinformation that is thrown at us. I will start to unpack this in the forthcoming chapters in this series and book.  


Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels please support them. 

I will post some affiliate links below to some books that have helped inform my thinking in this subject which you may find helpful whilst I figure out my thinking on this subject.

As this is a rough draft so I apologise for any grammar issues or areas where I need to improve the communication of what I am writing, this will be worked on in line with writing the book. 

Affiliate links to books that inform part of my understanding. I get paid a commission if you buy one of these books which helps me keep this site going. If you select an audible book from the below and you don't have an audible you can get a free trial and a free book forever all you have to do is cancel membership at the end of the trial. For this I get a £5 commission, the audio book is yours for free and keep forever so we both win. 


Book one is Never Split the Difference by ex FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss. This is a great book for understanding how we communicate, how we listen and how we can get better at understanding what people are really saying with real-world, high-stakes examples. 

Audible book link 


Printed or ebook


Next is 6MX - Six-Minute X-ray by Chase Hughes 

This is an advanced level behavioural profiling, communication and elicitation book to help you understand people better, better read them and communicate to them from a point of view informed by that understanding. With over 20 years in the US military in field operations and training others he now teaches interrogation, sales, influence and persuasion to the general public, CIA operatives and business. 

This is a great book and one of the most in-depth and yet easy to read, follow and apply books on the subject I have found in the market. 

Finally is What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navaro on Audible and as a printed book or ebook. Considered as one of the founding fathers of body language analysis this is a greater started from an ex FBI behavioural analyst with real-world applicable training and understanding.

I will post more books in future installations in this series and aim, at some point, create a book review section on this site.

Written by Sam

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