It was an honest and well-intentioned mistake. The loving dad meant well, but something just wasn’t right. When his youngest daughter was a senior in high school, she was over-the-top busy. Even if his glimpses of his daughter seemed like a quick blur, the dad wanted her to be assured of his love, so he began regularly to send her text messages. After all, text messages are the best way to communicate with young people, right?

The dad’s text messages might read: “Hope you do well on your test today! LOL, Dad.” “I am so proud of you. LOL, Dad.” “Congrats on your college acceptance letter! LOL, Dad.” You see the common factor in each endearing message: “LOL, Dad.” And you see where this little story is going.

Finally, his daughter had to know what was going on. She replied, “Thanks, Dad. But what is always so funny?”

While Dad thought he was sending “lots of love,” he was actually signing each sweet message with “laugh out loud.”

A quote attributed to Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chair, seems appropriate here: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard (or read) is not what I meant.”

How often do our attempts at communications go similarly awry, even when we are sincere and well-intentioned? The importance of understanding, really understanding, how to use our chosen channel of communication cannot be overestimated. Step one: Understand. Step two: Communicate.