Interpretation & Miscommunication

In addition to our perspective about something, whether good or bad, we add onto that to create our interpretation on a subject. Interpretation plays a major role in practically every interpersonal act that we make. Take a scenario: someone makes a sarcastic comment. Do you take it as being lighthearted and a joke, or do you take to be more personal and hurtful? How we interpret acts determine the type of personality that we show others.

There are eight factors that cause us to create our interpretation of an event:

Degree of involvement with the other person
We tend to view people more favorably if we have close relations to them, rather than others who we have more distance relations with. We may be okay with a person being a slacker if they are good friends, but on the contrary if you’re in a group project with someone who does not contribute much, we tend to get upset with them more.
Personal experience
If we have positive or negatives experiences in the past, we will continue to keep those same outlooks toward situations. For instance, if a person has bad service their first time in a restaurant, the odds are they will not return based on that negative experience.
Assumptions about human behavior
The beliefs we have towards people and events are what base our overall interpretation with them. If we believe that the world had overall negative actions, then we will interpret actions to mean negative results.
Emotions that are shown take shape to create attitude. An example of this can be if we are in a romantic relation with someone, and that person freely uses the expression “I love you” to many people, we may not take it as genuine and meaningful when it is told to us.
The way you view things that are perceived to happen changes behavior towards a situation. If you’re expecting to be punished for an action you’ve done, you will be in fear expecting reprimanding to happen. But if you feel like you will be rewarded for said action, you will have a more carefree attitude.
The more information that is known about a topic, the less third-party a person becomes and they can create opinion towards the topic. If you are informed beforehand on the behavior of a child that is due to autism, you tend to be more understanding and patient towards that child rather than frustration.
The way we see ourselves determine how we view other’s behavior. If we have a positive self-concept, we interpret friendly behavior as friendly behavior. If we have a negative concept, we determine friendly behavior to be seen as “charity” or simply just being polite.
Relational satisfaction
Behavior with someone is determined upon the basis of someone is happy or sad. Normal behavior is interpretated as normal when happy, but normal behavior can seem irritating of someone is upset.

We tend to be universal with our interpretation. For instance, if we are a more literal person, sarcasm will always be taken as offensive, rather than just a joking matter. Our personality creates our perspective. Similar to intercultural communication, we tend to base our perspective on who we are and what we are used to. Things that appear different from our normal lifestyle gives us a chance to make or break a change in our perspective by determining it to be good or bad. Past interpretations often rule over our future interpretations, and we organize these interpretations by pattern. But as we grow and develop, our interpretations are more likely to change, a factor of these being whom we are sharing our interpretations with. It’s an ongoing process that never has a pinpointed permanent interpretation.

Interpretation in a social context differs from how we see it in our personal mindset. We attach interpretation to behavioral practices of others. If we are in a quiet spot and someone is loud, our first impression is that we interpret someone as being rude and disrespectful. But the person may be deaf and we don’t realize he can’t hear the commotion he is creating. As we learn the behavior styles of others, we learn their form of communicating and interpret things in a more correct manner. Familiarity is what leads us to avoid miscommunication of messages.

The Disney Lesson


Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was kept locked up in the Notre Dame bell tower by Frollo, his guardian. Because he was physically disfigured and appeared to be different, Frollo determined him to be some sort of creature, because his self-concept told him that he was better than Quasimodo on the basis that he looked “normal” and held political power. He treated him poorly, with the interpretation that a person that looked like Quasimodo is a demon and not to be treated with respect. Esmeralda was a gypsy, and although she appeared normal, she knew what it felt like to be treated with disgrace and different on account of her lifestyle. Because she had that a similar personal experience to Quasimodo, her interpretation of him was not negative, even going so far as to protect him from others who had a different interpretation of him. She had outward experience to not judge someone by their appearance, and that the world could be seen as both good and bad. Her interpretation of Quasimodo based on her experience formed her actions toward him, and lead her to be a kind person, despite what Frollo considered him to be from his perspective.


Alice from Alice in Wonderland was a child that was bored by the way the world ran itself—it wasn’t as exciting and imaginative as she wanted, and she desired to escape to a world all her own. When given the opportunity to experience a more imaginative land, Wonderland, she found it to be strange and not exactly what she pictured in her head. Traits she thought would be great, like flowers talking and animals living human-esque lifestyles, actually backfired because they were not what was from her personal experience and assumptions. Due the negative experience she had in Wonderland, which began right when she entered it, her attitude changed to become negative towards it, and she was unable to find anything positive because of her emotions that shaped her attitude and actions. Instead of being a pleasant child she was known for, Alice became frustrated and annoyed at all aspects of this land that she was longing for. Her ability to gain firsthand experience for what she wanted gave her reasoning to base her interpretation that it wasn’t in fact what she desired. Although we sometimes have wants and dreams of what we want to do, from an outside point of view we’re going to see them as either positive or negative. The only way we can sometimes really gain our personal interpretation from it is by having experience and becoming involved with it. We need the knowledge to base an opinion.




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