This Friday or next … it’s all in the interpretation

Let’s get together next Friday and work on the project.

This Friday?

Right, next Friday.

Which Friday?

Ugh. The Friday that’s coming up.

Ok. That’s this Friday.

Sound familiar? Do you sometimes feel you’re going around in circles when you’re trying to get someone else to understand you? Although your language may be the same, your interpretation of certain words or phrases may be the underlying issue.

When we (attempt to) communicate, we know exactly what we mean in our heads. Often, we don’t consider that others don’t have the same understanding. That’s not to say they’re not as smart as us – we know in too many cases that is definitely not the case! It simply means that others have different ways of interpreting words based on their background, exposure, culture, and a slew of other factors.

Technical jargon used in the workplace is a great – or actually, not so great – example of misinterpretation potential. As you fire off that email to a customer, be sure it includes a clear message that leaves no room for questions about your content or your intent. Do they understand your acronyms? Are they clear on the meaning of terms used only in your industry?

The same is true with “text speak,” letters that are supposed to represent actual words. Does everyone in your workplace understand that you will “be right there” when you send a message simply saying “brt”? Someone on the receiving end of that text may wonder if your thumb just slipped and you hit a set of random letters, not expecting you to appear in their office within minutes.

Even messages as simple as “I’ll call you soon” are interpreted differently. “Soon” to one person may mean today or tomorrow. To another, it might mean before I retire. Frustrations arise when that first person is waiting for “soon” to arrive!

As to the debate between “this Friday” and “next Friday,” specify the date.

Let’s meet on Friday the 13th to discuss your project.

Clearer? Great! Talk to you soon!

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