And all of them need your attention.
What you meant
What you mean in your head is often not what comes out in your communication for a lot of reasons. You may need to soften a challenging message. You may need to use a specific tac because of political challenges. Understand what it is you want to communicate and how to communicate it in the context you are dealing with. Know the crucial points of what you want to communicate and focus on those points.
What you said
The words that you use in your communication have a context in your head that may or may not align with your message and what you meant to say. It is hard to find the precise words to match the meaning in your head.
Stay focused on the core points of your message and ensure you are as clear as possible when it comes to these points.
What they heard
No matter how precise you try to be, no matter how many caveats you try to make people will often hear something different from what you said. Ask people to repeat back exactly what you said some time. If they understand the topic they may be able to do it, but often they won’t be able to repeat it back correctly. That is OK that isn’t how communication works.
What they inferred
Lastly, once the words have been transmitted to our audience their own context kicks in. All of their life and experiences filter your words and create meaning in their head.
Because these last two steps are happening in the head of your audience if possible it is helpful to ask people to repeat back what they heard. This can make sure that your initial message and intent is communicated.
As my recent guest, Damian Synadinos said, it is a miracle that communication is even possible when you examine it at this level. So we can have some grace when people misunderstand us but we can also do our best to prevent that from happening.