Misunderstanding Definition ›› Useful Vocabulary for Clarifying Misunderstandings


What does misunderstanding mean?

It’s a noun to describe a failure to understand something correctly; it can also refer to disagreement or argument. Here are some sentence examples of this:

  • I misunderstood what you said.
  • You misunderstood me
  • I’m sorry about our misunderstanding.

If you’ve ever had a misunderstanding, don’t be too worried about it, they happen all the time. Unfortunately, it’s a part of life. Today, we will focus on a misunderstanding in the sense of when there was a failure to understand something.

How we deal with clarifying a misunderstanding can be the difference between successfully communicating what we meant to say, or making the situation worse by not expressing yourself in a clear manner.

The latter one can cause significant issues in friendships, family, business and romantic relationships. This post will teach you the useful vocabulary to use in phrases so you can clarify a misunderstanding quickly and successfully.

The first thing you need to ask is, did I not explain the situation correctly or did I misunderstand what was explained to me?

After determining this, it will make it easier to know what vocabulary to use, however, no matter who was at fault you can take action to resolve the misunderstanding.

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1. I didn’t explain correctly

If this is the case, you need to think about why the person didn’t understand you. Did you use incorrect nouns, adjectives or verb tense?

Believe it or not, the primary reason why we are most often misunderstood is due to wrong tensing. You may have wanted to explain to someone something that happened in the past and used future tensing instead or vice versa.

Reach out to the person you spoke with and admit that you didn’t explain properly. You can say something like:

  • I’m sorry I didn’t explain properly. What I meant to say was…
  • Can we start over, what I was trying to say was…
  • The point I wanted to make was…

2. I didn’t understand correctly

If you are not sure what the person is talking about, it’s your job to politely speak up and let them know. You can say something like:

  • When you mentioned… what did mean?
  • I’m sorry, I don’t think I understood correctly, are you saying (restate back what you believe was said).
  • I think I misunderstood, can you explain it again, please.
  • Can you please repeat what you said, I don’t think I get what you mean. 

3. Check the misunderstanding has now been clarified

To make sure there are no more misunderstandings, you need to ask the other person if it has now been clarified. 

  • Ok, so to make sure I understood correctly, you are saying…
  • Is that clear for you now?
  • Did I explain it better to you this time?
  • I hope that I’ve cleared up the misunderstanding.
  • Is there anything that you didn’t understand?
  • Does that help clarify things?
  • Let me be sure I understand you correctly.
  • So, what you are saying is that you think…

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How to avoid misunderstandings?

Good communication is an art form. We can compare it to two people dancing, except one is the speaker, and the other the listener. Both take turns leading a conversation.

The way you choose to put words together to make sentences should demonstrate that your primary objective is for your listener/s to understand you. Never get angry or upset at someone who doesn’t seem to understand you.

The problem could be that you are not explaining things correctly. Remember the listener may have basic English vocabulary, so simplify your vocabulary, this will show you care more about communicating effectively rather than showing off your extensive vocabulary.

Sometimes what is being communicated is understood differently by the listener, for this reason, clear communication means we need to direct or lead the conversation accordingly.

If you still don’t get it, it’s important that you reply, I’m sorry I still don’t know what you are trying to say or can you explain it again in more detail.

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Once a misunderstanding is sorted out, it’s polite to thank the person for having clarified it. You can say something like:

  • I’m, sorry for the misunderstanding; I just understood what you meant to say, thank you for clarifying it for
  • Yes, I see what you mean now, thank you
  • I’m glad you understand what I said, sorry if I didn’t explain it properly.

Clarifying any misunderstanding is almost always dependent on both the listener and speaker working together just like dancers.

When one is taking the lead the other should follow, if the speaker is clearly communicating his or her thoughts, it is easy for the listener to follow and understand, but don’t be scared to take the lead and speak up if necessary.

The next time you have a misunderstanding with someone, be patient and work together to clear it up. Following these steps will limit the number of misunderstandings you have with someone, no matter what language they speak or what is their culture.

If you think this article will help you eliminate future misunderstandings, we want to hear from you, leave us your comment below. Don’t forget to check out our other posts too!

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