Communication is at the heart of all good relationships. But, it’s more than just the heart, it’s the lifeline to have things flow smoothly and stay connected. Sometimes what we say is a complete success where everybody is on the same page, we all feel good about the interaction, and have achieved our goals. Other times ending in total disaster—hurt feelings, confusion, anger, and, worse yet, tears or ruined relationships.

Communication is something we all know is necessary to keep any relationship strong and connected. If we put positive communication at the heart of what we say, then being a trusted, influential communicator requires a shift in thinking about how we view our verbal and non-verbal messages.

Mole hill misunderstandings risk becoming mountains.

Consider this scenario: Once again, Amy was bent over the bath tub washing Dick’s dog. Dick had promised to wash the dog, but instead he was watching TV. From the living room Dick yelled, “Let’s get an outside dog-tub with running hot water, it will make it easier to wash him.” The words had barely left his mouth before Amy was screaming, “He’s your dog; why don’t you wash him…and while you’re at it, who’s going to come up with the money to pay for a stupid outside dog bath!” Dick was dumbfounded. “It was just a suggestion,” he said.

Probably. But consider what Amy heard (and saw). Dick was watching TV while Amy was doing what Dick promised he’d do. Dick was yelling to be heard over the noise from the television. What Amy heard from the bathroom was Dick shouting, issuing a command. If you get a response that doesn’t match the message you think you sent, then you didn’t send the message you thought you did.

Too often, the message heard is different from the message sent—especially when emotions are involved. It is how each person perceives the context of the message, the emotions of both the listener and the speaker and their intentions that change the perception of the “rightness” or the “wrongness” of the message. As the example shows, both the speaker and the listener have their own unique filters that delete, distort and generalize what was said and heard. Accepting that the original message may not have been received in the way it was intended is essential to keeping the lines of communication flowing.

The first step in achieving communication that will really say what you mean, is to take a look at what is it you want to communicate and what is the best way to do it both verbally and non-verbally.

It’s too easy to point and say it’s the listener’s “fault.” Maybe it’s true, but since we can’ control the other person’s emotions or response, take the responsibility for reviewing your own actions and communication first. Communication is not about who is right or wrong, but instead about helping each other see things from the other’s perspective. Many of these misunderstanding can be cleared up by simply acknowledging that there was a misunderstanding.