How to stop sending mixed messages

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Have you ever been in a trail where all of a sudden you see a sign that seems to be saying two different things? What do you do? Which of the two signs do you follow? We found ourselves in such a dilemma on a trail among the Sequoias in CA, and ended up walking several extra miles due to the confusion. Not nice!

Communication is challenging enough without having to deal with mixed messages. The problem with mixed messages is that you are left not knowing which of the messages to believe and/or respond to. It causes confusion. It can also be a cop out when you don’t want to tell the truth.

For example:

  • Someone on your team agrees that what you want done has high priority and it will get done right away. . . A week later it’s still not done. But you have not done any follow up either.

  • Another person tells you he loves the project he’s working on at the moment, but his facial expression and body language conveys anger.

  • Your spouse asks you what’s wrong because they see you upset and you give a clipped short “nothing” when your facial and body language is that something IS wrong.

How to make sure you don’t send mixed message

  1. Understand yourself. For words, feelings and actions to match you first need to understand your honest reaction to something.

  2. Commit to telling the truth. Many times mismatched messages happen because you are trying to hide your true feelings. Make sure your words and your feelings match. It’s better to tell the truth with tact and at the right moment than to try to hide your reaction.

  3. Find the best way to convey the truth. In the above examples, it would be better to say: “I know this is high priority, but my plate as already full. Can you help me decide what to put aside in order to give this project the attention you want?” Or: I like this project, but it makes me angry that you give me so much extra work when others in the group are not so busy.” Or: “I’m upset but am not ready to talk about it yet.”

You need to make sure your words, non-verbals, and actions match. You also need to convey your message with your head and your heart. Don’t try to discount your feelings, because they have a way of sneaking out and confusing people if they are different from your verbal message.

Remember. . .

Clear messages help both you and those you are communicating with. Mixed messages are confusing and can be dangerous. Don't send mixed messages! Make sure that what you say, what you feel, and what you do send the same clear message!


Want to learn more about better communication? Check out my book: Transformative Conversations

Ada GonzalezComment