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You are not alone if you are feeling misunderstood. One in four Australians experience regular feelings of loneliness and isolation, with misunderstandings being common in every household. Even though we live in an era of connectivity globally, evidence suggests that we are profoundly lacking in our communication skills. It is important to know that you don’t need to be alone to feel lonely. The pain felt when in the company of loved ones or in a social group, while feeling tremendously disconnected because of ongoing misunderstandings, can be deeply debilitating.
Communication cannot be easily avoided. A large portion of our waking hours is spent interacting with others – we send texts, email, talk over breakfast, on the phone, we chat on the internet, apply for a job, ignore our neighbours, order a coffee, argue with siblings or ask for a pay rise, the list goes on and on. We also communicate through gestures. You might slam your fist on the table, shout, lower your voice, point accusingly, wink or raise an eyebrow – these are all forms of communication. Our presentation also sends messages; piercing your nose or wearing a suit offers people information about you.
Communication is such a common part of daily life, yet understanding others and being understood is way more complicated than we think. So then, what can we do to be understood?
Firstly, it’s important to know that communication and talking is not the same thing. Talking comprises only a small part of communication. Communication, in its simplest form, is sending a message and having others understand your intended meaning. In addition to written or spoken words, our nonverbal messages and behaviour also sends information out to the world, such as: