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Communication Gaps and How to Close Them by Naomi Karten

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3. Misinterpretations: How Messages Cause Confusion

My brother, Jess, is an enthusiastic cross-country skier. I’m addicted to downhill skiing. A few years ago, when he said he had become proficient on hills and wanted to go downhill skiing with me, I was delighted. As we got off the chair lift, he looked down the slope and exclaimed, “It’s so steep!” Steep? This easy slope? That’s when I realized that the word “hill” meant something different to him than it did to me.

That was my first experience with cross-country confusion. My second occurred just before a first meeting with staff of an East Coast software company. I had begun chatting with people as we assembled for our morning meeting, and one woman told me she had just arrived from the West ...

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