How To Be Understood Better By Everyone

by | Apr 3, 2013

This is one of the workshop topics we cover in training our summer camp supervisors.

In fact we cover it with our camp counselors before they work with kids.

And, my wife and I talked and practiced this before we got married.

In fact, I first learned about it reading a parenting book.

This post is a trifecta for my blog. Three of the most common things I write about our marriage, parenting and workplace leadership. This is one of those, Leadership Happens Everywhere kinds of post.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unintentional Covert Messages.

I see three things that mostly effect communication.

  • The words we use,
  • The body language we use,
  • The filters the other person uses to process what we’ve said. These are built on previous life experience.

For the remainder of this post, I want to focus on the words we use.

I used to believe that it wasn’t my responsibility if I accidentally offended someone. But, are people not responsible for car accidents?   I accidentally pushed my brother through an open window when we were kids. I can assure you that my mom held me responsible.  Side note: my brother has reflexes like a cat and caught himself before falling from that second floor window. I believe I deserve the credit for his reflexes by running him through training drills like the window when we were younger. My mom still disagrees.

It’s time to be responsible for our part of clear communication.  

Here are three examples of unintentional covert messages.


Wife says; “You didn’t do that the way I asked you to.”

Husband hears, “I don’t believe in you, I think you must be stupid.”

Husband becomes defensive.


Parent says, “Do I need to remind you again tomorrow to remember your lunch for school?”

Kid hears, “I don’t believe you are smart enough to remember things on your own.”

Kids start to think, if you don’t believe in them: why even try.


Leader says, “Does that make sense to you?”

The team hears, “I don’t think you are smart enough to understand me.”

The team starts thinking, “My boss must think I’m stupid. I’m never getting a promotion or credit for anything.”

Here are three ways to consider rewording the above examples.

Wife, “I see you did it different then I suggested.” The husband can reply with “yep.” They are now free to continue a conversation.

Parent, “How are you planning to remember your lunch tomorrow?” The kid is now empowered and knows you believe in them.

Leader, “What do you see that I’m missing or not explaining well?” The team realizes they work for someone who thinks they are intelligent and values their opinion.


Nobody cares what you said, they want to know what you meant.


  • Identify what wording is in your current vocabulary that needs to go. For me, it’s “Does that make sense to you?”
  • Ask yourself. “If I say this, does it only say what I want it to?” “How can I make this statement positive and uplifting for others?”
  • Identity things others say that annoy or bother you. Do you say them?
  • ?What other Tips and Suggestions Do You Have?


  • Think about the last conversation with your spouse, child or a person at work. Did you unintentionally “say” something you didn’t mean to?
  • Ask someone you’ve built a bridge strong enough to bare the weight of truth with if you have anything you say or do that is hurtful and you aren’t aware of it.


  • If you are on the other end of conversation like this, speak up. Say, “I know you just said “xyz” but what I heard was “Lmnop”.”