How to Resolve Misunderstandings in the Workplace

Published: August 27, 2021 | Last Updated: December 1, 2023by Vanessa Rose

Have you ever been in a relationship that didn’t encounter at least the occasional misunderstanding? Misunderstandings can happen frequently in human interactions because each individual brings their own life context to the table, and when we hear things from other people, we filter them through the context we have. Our context is made up of our life experiences, core beliefs, and our values which vary from person to person.

So while objective information may be offered, subjective experiences filter that information, possibly altering it into something else. And there we have a misunderstanding. Simple, common, and unassuming. But learning how to resolve misunderstandings in the workplace can be widely beneficial, especially since misunderstandings in stressful environments can sometimes escalate into conflict.

How to Resolve Misunderstandings in the Workplace

While misunderstandings are common and don’t always cause bigger problems, they can sometimes be the kindling for conflict. Being aware of a misunderstanding gone too far can help prevent things from getting out of control. Here are some ways to begin learning how to resolve misunderstandings in the workplace so they don’t evolve into something more costly.

Be Mindful of How You Communicate

Because we can easily contextualize what we mean in our own minds, we can make a lot of assumptions about what we’re saying or hearing. We may think the other person sees everything from the same vantage point we do. So it can be helpful first to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to communicate with so that you have a better perspective on how they may see things. When perspective-taking, recognize you won’t have their whole context but you’ll be closer to how they see things. Destructive conflict in the workplace is often avoidable, and this is one conflict prevention tool that can do just that.

Ask Questions

Allow curiosity to become your friend. Notice when you’re misunderstanding something or making assumptions about what other people may know. To avoid the need for mediating employee conflict, lead with curiosity and allow space for inquiry to be a positive rather than a negative thing. Questions can help avoid emotional conflict and reactions later.

Avoid Defensiveness

If someone doesn’t understand you, don’t take it personally. Remember it’s individual context that creates misunderstandings, not hatefulness or spite. When someone doesn’t understand you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or want to harm you, it simply means they’re not understanding you. If you notice big emotions in response to that, that’s okay. But make sure you’re addressing those emotions outside of the professional relationship so as not to escalate things. If the emotions speak on your behalf, you’ll be dealing with staff conflict before you know it. See if conflict coaching is available for you and your team if this remains a point of struggle.

If learning how to resolve misunderstandings in the workplace has proven stressful and ineffective for you, don’t fret. Talk to those who can help you navigate the nuances of conflict resolution. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.

Vanessa Rose

Vanessa is a licensed psychotherapist and writer living in Los Angeles. When not on a mission for inner peace and conflict resolution, she enjoys making art, visiting the beach, and taking dog portraits. Always curious about self-improvement and emotional expansion, Vanessa also manages her own website which explores the unconscious and archetypal influences on how we eat, express, and relate.