How to Communicate Without Sending Mixed Messages


Have you ever said anything to somebody that was misinterpreted or misunderstood?  For instance, have you found yourself in a situation like Joanna’s?

Joanna found her boss’ habit of interrupting her and finishing off her sentences increasingly annoying.  Today she resolved she was going to talk to him about it.  Joanna tended to avoid any kind of conflict and wanted to do this with a “light” touch without hurting Tim’s feelings.

Joanna felt proud of herself after she had spoken to Tim and looked forward to the change in their relationship.  However, days went by, and she became more deflated as nothing had seemed to change. Plucking up the courage again, she reminded Tim he had agreed to stop interrupting her but was now doing it as frequently as ever.

“I thought you agreed” she said, “that you would try from now on not to interrupt me like you did before, but you are doing it as much as you were before.”

“I didn’t think you were serious about it” Tim laughed, “because you were smiling and joking when you said it.  How was I to know you meant it?”

If you want to ensure you get the right response, avoid sending a mixed message.  If you don’t get the response you had hoped for, chances are you have been hi-jacked by one of the golden rules of communication:

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

Make What You Say & How You Say It Congruent

  • Your non verbal behavior needs to be in tune with your words.  You need the words to match the music.
  • Look at the words you use and how you say them to determine whether your communication will be interpreted as being non-assertive, aggressive, or assertive.

Face-to-Face Communication

  • Have an assertive posture, which is open and relaxed with both feet firmly on the floor and head help up.
  • Have an assertive voice, which is steady and firm, sincere and clear, with a tone that is middle range with warmth.  Put an emphasis on the verbs, and end your sentences on a low note.
  • Have an assertive face, which is open and relaxed, a facial expression that is congruent with the message, and your jaw and forehead is relaxed.
  • Have assertive eyes, which is firm contact but not constant, and is always direct when conveying a difficult or true message.
  • Have assertive gestures, which is hand movements that are measured and firm, and with open palms encouraging cooperation from others.
  • Have assertive proximity, which is respecting personal space or roughly at an arm’s length of distance.[/message][su_spacer]

You can see how the non-verbal elements of your message play a significant part in clarity and understanding.


Suzanne Potts
Suzanne Potts
SUZANNE Potts is a successful author, speaker, and assertiveness coach. Her passion for sharing and delivering assertiveness and negotiation skills into a diverse range of cultures, industries and countries has taken her to war torn territories, military cultures and communist republics. Suzanne also provides one-to-one boardroom coaching for women managers across all industries.




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