People Management

How to Avoid Misunderstandings at Work

By Samuel Roy March 13 2019

Work often leads us to collaborate with new teams and less familiar departments.


As a result, discussions can sometimes become ambiguous and lead to total incomprehension on account of team-specific jargon or terminology.

In these situations, people tend to commit the grave mistake of not asking questions for fear of disturbing others, making a bad impression or slowing the team down. But unfortunately, by remaining silent, they risk creating communication issues and negatively affect the work environment in the long term.

Pushing Pride Aside

Admitting we don’t understand something can be difficult, but your team is there to help you. Besides, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for the help you need in order to do your work properly and make sure everyone is on the same page.

It’s okay for you not to know everything.

In fact, pretending you do know everything will only make things worse. You don’t know if others understand or not. We all have different baggage, hence we all process information differently. If you need more details on a subject, be sure to ask.

The Power of the Group

Don’t think others will judge you if you don’t understand. People have a bad habit of ascribing negative intentions to others, but they’re actually often happy to help. Most people like being asked questions, because they see it as a chance to share their expertise and demonstrate their knowledge.

By choosing to keep quiet and pretending to understand, you lose out on a great opportunity to learn and grow.

Tips to Communicate Better

To avoid the potential conflicts arising from a lack of communication, consider asking questions more often.

Here are a few tips to help you with this:

  • Reformulate what someone told you:
    “So if I understand correctly…”
    “Could you confirm to me that…?”
  • Ask why:
    “Why do you do that?”
    “What’s the goal here?”

If you’re afraid of being told your question has already been answered, or people will think you weren’t listening, keep in mind that repetition is the mother of learning. Never be afraid to ask questions: even if you need something repeated to you, that something can benefit other members of the team.

In short, asking questions will help you work better as a team. But most importantly, you’ll avoid communication problems and their negative long-term effects.


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