When a miscommunication isn’t a miscommunication

As a professional communicator I abhor miscommunication but you know what I hate even more? When people label something as a miscommunication when it’s clearly something else.

Lately, it seems everywhere I turn, people are throwing around the miscommunication excuse to explain away everything from lies to laziness. It’s usually mentioned in an offhand, breezy manner suggesting that miscommunicating is just so gosh darn unavoidable and we’re all guilty and well, this stuff happens, etc.

So I turned to my trusty Oxford Dictionary for support and instead, I uncovered the root of the problem. It defines miscommunication as “a failure to communicate adequately” which seems rather vague and open to interpretation if you ask me. Perhaps this explains why everyone from sheepish spouses to disgraced politicians feels they can casually use this term to cover up a multitude of sins, shrug their shoulders in an “aw shucks” fashion and move on.

I suppose I’m taking it all a bit too personally but as someone who has devoted my life to communicating clearly, I bristle at the suggestion that ambiguity and confusion are unavoidable and we should all just live with it.

So, I’d like to propose a new (wordy) definition as follows:

Miscommunication: a failure to do everything in your power to ensure the recipients of your intended message received and understood your intended message

 According to my definition, people would no longer be able to write off the following actions as a mere miscommunication.

  • Bald-faced lies, untruths, half-truths, fibs and nonsense
  • Not communicating at all and then calling it a miscommunication
  • Communicating with the intention to mislead or deceive
  • Communicating with the intention of covering your ass when you have screwed up
  • Communicating with the intention of blaming someone else for your lack of action
  • Deliberately omitting important information from correspondence
  • Deliberately relegating important information to the end of an email in the hopes that most people won’t read to the bottom
  • Using an email subject line that has no relation to the content in the hopes that people will ignore it

So, fellow communicators. What do you think? Will you embrace my definition and join me in the war against the overuse of miscommunication?




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