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Sometimes It’s OK If Your Audience Misunderstands You


I admit that sometimes I interpret what I’ve heard differently than it was intended.

As a kid, my mom used to tell me, it’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man… Marry Rich!  Marry Rich!   Have you met my husband?  His name is Rich.

My mom told me I couldn’t drink and walk at the same time.  I thought she meant that humans, as a species, can’t drink and walk at the same time – you know, like you can’t sneeze and keep your eyes open at the same time.  A few decades later, I’m pretty sure what she meant was that it’s not a good idea to try and drink while you’re walking.  But to this day, if I’m walking somewhere, have a cup in my hand and want to take a drink, I come to a dead stop, take a sip, then keep on walking.  Rich thinks it’s hilarious.

If you have family and coworkers, you know what it’s like to have someone misunderstand what you said.  If you’re honest with yourself, you also have misunderstood as well.

But it’s my contention that sometimes, misinterpretations are OK.  Yep, I’m saying that sometimes, it’s OK if your audience hears you wrong.

Serve the Audience

I think the best presenters are those who are there to serve the audience.  Sometimes that means that the words you use will inspire seemingly unrelated thoughts that are only connected in the mind of the listener.

Face it.  People come to your presentations with their own lives, their own baggage.  Of course the things that are on their minds are going to distract them from listening.  There’s nothing you can do about that.  Sometimes that means that the brilliant concept that you’ve tried to convey won’t reach them, but instead will spawn another idea that does help them.

If you’re there to serve your audience, you should be happy they got something out of your presentation… even if you have no idea how they came to that conclusion!

It’s a Gift to Know When Your Message is Misunderstood

Early in my professional career, I confused the fact that I have no problem in coming up with words to spill out of my mouth that somehow I was a good communicator.  If it had only happened once that I was misunderstood, I might have chalked it up to poor listening skills on the part of the listener.  But after it happened a grunch of times, I had to start looking at the common denominator – me!  I wasn’t as clear with my message as I thought I was.

Finding out that your message didn’t come through as you’d intended is a gift.  If it truly is one of those times where it’s really important for your audience to get your message, then be grateful when someone lets you know that they’ve misinterpreted what you’ve said.  Because if that one person misunderstood, chances are there were others who misunderstood too.  See what you can do to clear up that misunderstanding so your message can be better the next time as you take into consideration how others are actually hearing you.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Obviously, you don’t want to ALWAYS be misunderstood!  Yes, you’re there to serve your audience.  But chances are, you have something you want to accomplish too.

It matters that you’re a good communicator.  Otherwise, why would you be reading this blog?

But sometimes, it’s OK if your audience misunderstands.   My husband came from a poor family but marrying him was one of the best things I’ve ever done.  Even if he does crack up when he sees me stop walking before I take a drink.

What’s Been Your Experience?  When Have You Misunderstood a Presenter?  When Have You Been Misunderstood?

Add your experiences in the Comment section!