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The Pain of Being Misunderstood

Have you ever written something and had it misunderstood or misinterpreted?
Let us look at why this happens and how to handle it professionally.


People, strangers, judge us through our writings on the Internet. It is not uncommon for them to misinterpret what we are trying to say. As much as we might blame them and call them “Idiots” there are other factors to consider.


Text always appears cold, harsh, and indifferent. Anything written seems to come across much harsher than it is meant. Text can appear judgmental when it is not meant to be. Text can be softened by using different fonts, kept off a stark white background, or by adding lexicons like the smiley face to lighten the mood. Text is no replacement for the spoken word where emotions can be heard, and facial expressions can be read.


Sometimes people when reading something assume it is about them and become defensive rather than trying to learn anything from what is written. As such right from the start they put their own expectations on what is being said and easily go jumping to conclusions. This is not entirely their fault, it is the nature of the beast (so to speak) to protect ourselves. 

Putting a reader on the denfense often happens because the writer did not create a warm opening paragraph.  Also it could just be the reader was having a bad day.

Poor Communication on Part of the Author

As a writer you might think you are making your point clearly. You might think certain minute points (that would add clarity) are not needed and omit them, or because something you have as your common knowledge, you assume everyone has as their common knowledge. Despite the fact that it is called “Common Knowledge” it is really not always that common. For example if you grew up on a farm, surrounded by people who grew up on farms you know that hay is food for some livestock and straw is bedding. You might assume this is common knowledge, but the fact remains that most people do not know that it is straw they are sitting on when they go for “Hay Rides”.

Hay Ride by tiffanywashko.  And just in case anyone is confused, those are not horses, they are mules.

As such it is up to a writer to think about how much knowledge their readership has, and without talking down to them, they need to communicate their points clearer, even if it makes things a bit longer to read.

Different Styles of Communication

Although I am communicating to you in English, your English and mine are going to be slightly different based on where we live and the common slang of the area. Although television has made some things familiar to all there was a time when the word “gay” meant on thing in one part of the world and a totally different thing elsewhere. Even today there are small changes in basic communication from area to area.

Sarcasm Does Not Work Well in Print

A person has to be a really good writer to convey sarcasm when writing. So few master it. As such it comes off as ignorance, arrogance, or meanness. A writer would do well to stay away from sarcasm if they are trying to convey a serious matter.

Unwilling to Listen

To a writers fault is their own unwillingness to listen to negative feedback. Rather than themselves becoming hostile at the people who leave comments showing they clearly misunderstood what the writer was trying to say, the writer should step back, and think about how they can clarify, or edit, their link and information. If a writer is really wanting to be properly understood, feed back is the only way they will know if they are not being understood.


It does hurt to be misunderstood. An article I wrote was misinterpreted and removed from another site because somebody thought it was an attack on Christianity, which I am adamant that it was not. I was not given an opportunity to clarify my points, which was unfortunate. It hurt not to be given that chance to make amends to people who may have felt offended, or confused.  In retrospect perhaps I needed to edit the article more before publication.  Or needed to use other examples than only ones from Christianity. 

Related Links

How to Write a “How to” Guide

How NOT to Make Money Writing for the Internet

Writing the Right Stuff, a Writers Guide for Success

The Importance of Supporting Other Writers Work

If you have opinions, ideas, or knowledge, which hopefully will not be misunderstood, and would like to get Paid for sharing them by writing for sites like this, Click Here.

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20 Responses to “The Pain of Being Misunderstood”
  • ken bultman
    March 6th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Ouch. Point well taken….ask with all your posts.

  • Karen Gross
    March 6th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Great article, you made some very good points, and communicated them clearly. On a forum like Triond, we have no idea who will be reading, and what they may find offensive.

    That balance between using enough words to convey our thoughts to those who don’t share our experiences, without bogging down our message with lengthy explanations of terms that most of the readers are already well aware of.

    That reminds me – my poem Living in a Plastic World wasn’t really about bottled water:)

  • ceegirl
    March 6th, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    well said

  • PR Mace
    March 6th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    It seems we have freedom of speech until we step on someones toes. I am sorry this happen to you. I do agree that we have to keep in mind we are writing for the masses and not everyone will understand what we are trying to say. I found not to use phases I grew up with in Alabama such as ” Worth your while” when I was growing up we said” Worth you wild” and I was corrected. I didn’t even think about it as I wrote the article just used what I knew. Writers have to have a strong wall around their feelings and remember not everyone will love their baby.

  • martie
    March 6th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    This article was excellent. Also I read your article on the other site and I will say two things. First, It did sound like you made some valid points about Christain thinking (which is probably what upset people.) Second, I did not see it so much as an attack as your point of view. As a Christain, I wasn’t offended it made me think a bit. Many people simply don’t want to think about what their religion teaches and so get angry when they feel their beliefs are questioned.
    Whether I misunderstood you or not it was still a great article simply because it challenged people to think.

  • Daisy Peasblossom
    March 6th, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Sounds like I missed a rousing argument somewhere. Incidentally, lucky people to be sitting on straw. Our hay rides were on regular hay. Straw is much nicer.

  • irenen1
    March 6th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    So why does staw cost more than hay?
    You always have the option of retooling a misunderstood article. Ideas should never go to waste.

  • Inna Tysoe
    March 6th, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Good article. But another reason people misunderstand one another when they only have the written word to go on is that something like 70-80% of our communication is actually non-verbal. There is a good reason for this. Language makes it possible to lie (and it’s a lot easier to lie and invent via the written rather than the spoken word). But it’s not so easy to lie via body language.



  • Jenny Heart
    March 6th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I agree with Martie. We all make errors in judgment. To error is human forgive divine. Your articles never offend me. I do believe it’s like Martie said that you’re just giving us your point a view. As a Christian myself I try not to judge and just be a good example about what Christianity is all about. Great article Brenda!

  • Brenda Nelson
    March 6th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    For the record it is STRAW that is cheaper. It is the waste from the grain industry, the stems the oats and wheat are grown on. It is used as bedding. Hay is about 4 times the price and is what the animals eat.
    Most hay rides now use straw because its cheaper and slightly softer, but still itchy. Straw is yellow, hay is green

  • sara2010
    March 7th, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Nice point sharing.

  • deep blue
    March 7th, 2010 at 4:51 am

    You have pointed out a perennial issue we encounter as writers reading each other’s works. At one time I have written something where ten have agreed and one criticized my style of writing like I’m going around the bush. One more thing you may haven’t pointed out is the politics in Triond. We have unconsciously high regard for people who usually comments positively on our works than those who rarely do but drops a bomb to be remembered. All I could do is the reply to the comment in all humility unless I couldn’t sleep with it and I have to do the same. The 3rd law of motion applies in writing so I suppose. Religious matters are tricky subjects I try to do away with. A very timely post, Brenda.

  • Reilley
    March 7th, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Great article, good topic, very timely.

  • AlmaG
    March 8th, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I totally agree!!! Point well said :)

  • standingproud
    March 9th, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Well pointed out.
    Images help to demonstrate the mood.
    Brenda I too have picked up a read wrong, reacted,then I back tracked reread when in a better frame of mind and picked the same article up compliantly differently.
    Just wish I hadnt of reacted in the first place, a lessen I since have learned .

  • albert1jemi
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:18 am

    wel written

  • MartineP
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Good share. I have to totally agree on this one. In real life, people know I am a sarcast, but in my own language I noticed that saying something or writing something can be a different thing. I do tend to write something like “sarcastic mood” while writing on forums, but still people kept bashing me and got rude. After a while I gave up and understood it was not personal. You always have trolls that like to read everybody wrong to start their riots.
    By the way: in my language there are two kinds of mules. When the mother is a horse and the father a donkey, they are called “muildier”, when the father is a horse and the mother a donkey, they are called “muilezel”. In English I only find mule for both.

  • Patrick Regoniel
    March 10th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I do agree with your points and have had that experience of being misunderstood too. I would contemplate it’s better to leave the issue behind but it also pays to explain further what you meant. Readers and writers are so varied that a variation of Abraham Lincoln’s quote may be appropriate to describe the situation: “You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time.” :-)

  • Lee Ness
    March 12th, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I agree with all your points here about being misunderstood.
    It can happen in blink of eye and people can be un relaenting to about it.
    Thanks Lee Ness

  • rellr1 Illumination
    March 14th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I like your points and their are some points i don’t when writing about sarcasm. I think everyone masters that.

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