Poor Communication Kills

"It is all that is left unsaid upon which tragedies are built."

According to many anthropologists, one of the turning points in human development was a growing ability to communicate. In fiction, one of the turning points in dramatic development is the ability not to communicate.

Sometimes, this poor communication can be entirely legitimate. After all, miscommunication and misunderstanding are Truth in Television, and some stories are written with this point in mind. This often happens in mystery stories, such as where a murderer kills an innocent victim due to a misunderstanding.

But frequently, a situation arises where the author wants the plot to go a certain direction, but for it to do so, one or more characters have to misunderstand each other. Common enough in Real Life, so it should be no trouble to pull off in fiction, right? Well, there's a few problems... the misunderstanding is pretty easy to clear up, and the characters are pretty good speakers who are on good terms and speak frankly to each other without needlessly holding back.

So what's the author to do? They have the coolest plot twist or Climax Boss fight, but it absolutely hinges on these guys being, however briefly, unable to articulate their point. To solve this problem, the author reduces the characters' verbal skills to those of three-year-olds. Shy three-year-olds, with a stutter. And then we see that poor communication kills.

All the characters involved go out of character for a moment so that they can't (or won't) tell their side of the story, or create a false urgency because there's "No Time to Explain", or just plain act like a disgruntled loner and tell their friends to Figure It Out Yourself when cooperation (or at least non-interference) is infinitely preferable. No matter which reason, it seems that at least half of the people involved have simultaneously gotten hold of the Idiot Ball, if not everyone.

Or to summarize: Poor Communication Kills is when a misunderstanding is entirely implausible and against the characters' previously exhibited communication skills, personality, and relationship(s), and any normal person could clear up the misunderstanding in less than 30 seconds and solve the plot. (However, those rarer instances when in-character poor communication kills can count, too.) This is a frequent companion trope of the Idiot Ball and can often drive an Idiot Plot right off a cliff.

Though similar, this trope does not include things like Selective Obliviousness, You're Just Jealous, or Sarcastic Confession, as those are failures to listen rather than speak; though, honestly, authors can nerf even that ability when they need the Reasonable Authority Figure to become a useless adult.

NOTE: though the trope name includes "kills", no death has to happen. It's a pun: "poor communication skills" and "poor communication kills" — death does sometimes happen as a result of poor communication.

Compare Dramatically Missing the Point; Open Mouth, Insert Foot; Impeded Messenger; Doomed Appointment.

Contrast: Just Eat Gilligan, Amnesia Danger. See Facial Dialogue for those times in which a character seems unable to communicate, but actually can get entire encyclopedias of information across with just body language and a twist of the eyebrow.

This is a trope rife with major plot points by necessity. Spoilers shall be unmarked.

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    Common ways to NOT get the point across 

  • Angrish: A character is too angry to get his point across coherently.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: A character misunderstands an unfamiliar word as an insult.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: The character purposefully keeps quiet out of conflicted feelings.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: A character's attempts to be humorous just leaves their audience bemused, bothered and bewildered.
  • Cassandra Truth: A character who is never believed because her claims are seen as insane.
  • Cassandra Did It: when she's proven right, sometimes, everyone will just assume she did it.
  • Contagious Cassandra Truth: If the "Cassandra" convinces someone else they'll have exactly the same problem convincing anyone themselves.
  • Crying Wolf: The dumbass has lied to them before, so they think he's lying again even when he's telling the truth.
  • The End Is Nigh: No-one believes those crazy guys with sandwich boards anyway.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: characters are unable to communicate by phone due to a plot-convenient malfunction, such as a lack of signal or a flat battery.
  • Corrupted Data: The message cannot be read on arrival
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: The end result of many communication breakdowns.
  • Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: The answers to questions are cryptic. As well as unhelpful.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Being mysterious for the sake of being vague, this rarely helps the heroes get anywhere or stop the villains.
  • Cue Card Pause: An unfortunately timed pause completely changes the meaning of a sentence.
  • Culture Clash: Each character is quite certain that the other understands what is meant.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: How most people get tongue tied into being a Cassandra Truth.
  • Divided We Fall: Your friends allies regard you as a greater threat than their (and your) enemies.
  • Does Not Know How To Say Thanks: When a character tries to express his gratitude to someone but has no idea how to go about it.
  • Friend or Foe: You can't tell who to trust.
  • Headbutting Heroes: You and another hero do NOT get along.
  • Ignored Confession: If someone is impaired in any way, whatever revelation they say will be ignored. Even if it seems perfectly logical that it would be so.
  • Ignored Expert: A modern version of Cassandra, who has found irrefutable empirically acquired proof of doom that everyone refuses to believe.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Any time a non-violent solution against a nigh-unstoppable force seems likely, someone will shoot at it.
  • It Seemed Trivial: Someone keeps his mouth shut about a vital fact because he doesn't know how important that fact actually is.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Why any two Super Heroes or teams fight in comic books. At least it usually gets sorted out fairly quickly once someone asks Why Isn't It Attacking?
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Keeping vital information from the hero, either for valid reasons or "just because". Rarely ends amicably.
  • Lost In Transmission: You are getting some vital information when suddenly, right as you are being told the key ingredient, the phone cuts out. Or the radio falls into static, or the computer has a psychotic break from reality. In any case, you are now standing there with a green wire in one hand, a red wire in the other, and no idea which one you were supposed to cut.
  • Love You and Everybody: A character confesses platonic love for something, and is misunderstood to mean romantic love.
  • Mathematician's Answer: You ask someone a question, and the answer they give you is completely correct and completely useless.
  • Metaphorically True: Telling the recipient something the speaker knows is not true, or at least mostly not true (and is likely very aware that the listener will take it the wrong way), but considers it justified as being true.
  • Mistaken Confession: A character confesses to something they weren't being asked about.
  • Mondegreen: A character mishears the words of another.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: "Engineering, report!" "You'd better come down here and see this... and bring a Red Shirt with you."
  • Non-Answer: A response that superficially resembles an answer, but when looked at more closely, is not one at all.
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: When words are out of the mix, things tend to get worse. If only someone created a language based on making signs... still they'd find a way to mess it up.
  • Not Helping Your Case: The character falls under suspicion, and reacts in a way that makes him look even more suspicious.
  • No Longer with Us: Poor word choice causes one character to assume that another is dead.
  • No Time to Explain: An excuse for several of the following; considering how time works in movies, pretty much a non-excuse.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Shushing away children or allies when they have important news.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: This poor soul can't expose the Devil in Plain Sight, how infuriating!
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Two characters have a conversation, but each party is actually addressing a different topic than the other without realizing it for some time, if ever.
  • One Side of the Story: The result of several of these.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: Overhearing only part of an important conversation and leaping to the wrong conclusion.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: The result of heroes getting fed up with abstruse and cryptic mentors and allies.
  • Remember That You Trust Me: Some loners never let the Aesop stick permanently.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: A frustrated person expresses a wish they wouldn't really want to come true, but someone close to them takes it literally and acts on it.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: What happens when two groups who should be allies fight, simply because no one bothers to find out which side they're all on!
  • Self Offense: A character detects someone approaching and, thinking it's a bad guy, attacks. Of course, it turns out they just attacked their ally.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: When Smart people Cannot Spit It Out because their language is too elevated.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When someone utters a perfectly innocent remark, only for it it to sound like something smutty.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: A result of some of these, usually from an initial lie being revealed.
  • Tragically Misguided Favor: When you think you do something good for a person, but it turns out to be the worst thing that could happen.
  • Two Rights Make a Wrong: Two groups each put a plan into action without telling the other, with the result that neither is successful.
  • You Didn't Ask: Not sharing important information unless specifically asked to.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Very often in the disaster and horror genre, anyone who learns of the impending disaster in time to stop it loses the ability to not talk like a homeless schizophrenic.
  • You Know What You Did: A soap opera staple, the result of a loved one thinking you're cheating because of One Side of the Story. Worst part is the poor sap doesn't know what he did!
  • You Make Me Sic: A character writes something to another... but the only response they get is that their spelling needs work.

Examples

    Comedy 
  • Narrowly averted in Billy Burmingham's comedy album Still the 12th Man:
    Richie Benaud: Alright Security, take them out.
    Security: With pleasure, Mr. Benaud. *cocks gun*
    Richie Benaud: Not that kind of "take them out", Security! Take them out of the building!

    Comic Books 
  • In 9 Chickweed Lane, Official Couple Amos and Edda broke up mostly because she wouldn't tell him what was upsetting her (his dreamy ramblings about the concert violinist they'd watched) and it never occurred to him A) to ask what was wrong or B) the answer might be him. They do reunite... without ever actually resolving the issue that split them up. This has become a running theme in Edda and Amos' relationship: Edda reacting to an emotional moment by freaking out and bolting, then cluing Amos in long after the fact (and then only when a third party points out the inappropriateness of her actions).
  • G.I. Joe, late in the series. Cobra has captured a bunch of G.I.Joes. Cobra Commander, off-site, says to let them go. Unfortunately he conveys this as 'Get rid of them'. The officers on site dither and whine. Instead of calling back to ask 'You mean shoot them?' they agree to let a mook do it. Several Joes get their heads ventilated. GRAPHICALLY. Yikes.
  • In an issue of X-Factor, where Siryn is trying to tell Jamie she's pregnant and Jamie thinks she leaving the team. Following a brief argument after which Jamie storms off, Monet points out to Siryn that rather than Jamie being an insensitive ass, he obviously didn't know what she was trying to say.
  • Oh Jason, if only Batman had told you he loved you. How much trouble, trauma and violent murder could have been avoided? Possibly justified in that Batman thinks his love for his boys is perfectly obvious. And Jason probably wouldn't have believed him anyway.
  • In Jango Fett: Open Seasons, the Mandalorians and Jedi fight a pitched battle that leaves all of the Mandos except Fett dead and most of the Jedi still in the snow, as well. This happened because Fett's archnemesis implicated the Mandalorians in mass murder of civilians and the Jedi reacted accordingly. However, the Jedi are Jedi; they tell the Mandalorians to surrender and promise that they'll be treated fairly. If Fett had surrendered and tried to clear up the misunderstanding, things might have ended differently. Granted, a massive force of clearly hostile Jedi stepped into his camp and told them to surrender, and Fett knew that his archnemesis was behind it.
    • All the more reason to explain it to them. Jedi or not, no one likes being manipulated. 10 minutes of talking and he could have had the Jedi on his side instead of losing his whole army.
  • The controversial "Ragnarok Now" arc of Uncanny Avengers ends with the Scarlet Witch being killed by Rogue, who thinks she betrayed the Avengers and sided with the Apocalypse Twins. In reality, Scarlet Witch had only pretended to sell out her friends, and was actively working to take down the Twins' plan from the inside.
  • Almost in Promethea. The titular character is trying to get a badly injured friend to the hospital but her unfamilarity with modern society makes things tense. Can she even recognize a hospital? Fortunately the closest one uses a cadecus as a symbol of healing, which she herself uses.
  • The famous "Marvel misunderstanding" — the stock situation in which superheroes who unexpectedly run into each other promptly start a fight because at least one side jumps to the conclusion that the other is up to no good. Once in a while even lampshaded by more self-aware characters (such as Quasar in one of his own issues).
    Ms. Marvel: Why didn't the Hulk tell us he needed help?
    Jen Walters: Did you ask?
  • An Archie Comics Free Comic Book Day comic lampshaded how much Archie relies on this trope for its humor. A "Real World" kid pops into the Archie universe, points out the poor communication, and everyone starts trying to be more understanding. The Universe is instantly boring.
  • The Original Sin side story Hulk vs Iron Man reveals this as a major part of the Hulk's origin: a drunken Tony Stark got into an argument over the Gamma Bomb with Bruce Banner and he decided to go fiddle with the Bomb itself. However, he ended up making the bomb yield weaker than it should, making the damage lesser than it should. However, Bruce was still angry, deleted an e-mail Tony gave him warning him of what he did, then blocked him outright.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Melody is never told why she's not to go beyond the seawall. This becomes extremely problematic once Melody finds her grandfather's gift to her.
  • Jack from Rise of the Guardians is guilty about this halfway through. After the other Guardians think he betrayed them, all he would have had to say was "I found Pitch's lair, and the tooth fairies." Instead, he just stutters and mumbles, and doesn't defend himself.
  • Strange Magic: If the Bog King had let the Sugar Plum Fairy explain why the love potion didn't work when he tried to use it on the girl he was in love with, he and everyone else would probably have been much happier for it.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: A lack of communication is the catalyst for the entire plot of the movie. Fix-It Felix, the protagonist of the game, is a good guy who genuinely tries to be courteous to Ralph. However, he's unable to be an effective mediator between Ralph and the Jerkass NPCs of their game, which is what causes the confrontation that leads to Ralph leaving the game. Also, Felix simply has no frame of reference for how horrible Ralph feels. This means that, since Ralph never tries to communicate his feelings to either Felix or anyone else in their game, he has no way of knowing that Ralph isn't happy. Even the fact that Ralph is homeless can be blamed on a lack of communication. If he had asked, or even implied, Felix would have certainly taken the thirty seconds out of his day to give Ralph a house. He never did, because he legitimately thought that Ralph was happy where he was.
  • Frozen:
    • Anna gets struck in the head with Elsa's ice magic, so the sisters are separated for thirteen years to keep Anna from getting harmed again. Due to Anna's memories of the incident getting erased, she has no idea why Elsa shuts her out. A lot of the film's conflict (especially regarding Elsa's glove and the major argument between the two sisters over Anna's impromptu engagement to Hans) might have been avoided if Elsa or their parents had just told Anna about Elsa's powers when they felt she was old enough. One gets the idea that Elsa was ordered specifically not to tell her, and it seems to be suggested that had they not been killed prematurely, they may have had a point in time where they were going to tell Anna something along the lines of "we had to isolate you from Elsa because she has this ability to make ice that she is unable to control".
    • The trolls have no idea how to help Elsa gain control of her powers — only that she shouldn't let fear control her.

    Music 
  • Used quite Anviliciously in the song "One Tin Soldier". In it a town has a "treasure" hidden under a mountain, which a valley kingdom covets. They invade, kill everyone, and find the "treasure" is just a plaque which says "Peace on Earth". Worse, when they first demand it the mountain people make a vague offer to share their treasure with their "brothers" instead of just telling them the truth.
  • Steven Curtis Chapman covered this topic in "Still Called Today," which stresses the importance of making the wrong things right before it's too late.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Then there's Exalted, in which Lytek, God of Exaltation, who's known for a very long time about the Great Curse, has utterly failed to tell anyone else about this for 2000+ years. By this point, if he does tell anyone, it's likely he'll be mined for starmetal.
  • One of the Fluff asides in Reign involves an instance of Nonverbal Miscommunication that rises to this level — the mercenary commander had a troop of mixed nationality that each knew one of three different sets of military hand signals; he'd only bothered to check that they all knew hand signals, not that they all knew the same ones. His signal to "hold up" was variously interpreted correctly, as an order to attack, or as an order to retreat, and they were routed in the chaos resulting.
  • In Warhammer, the Slaans - the mage-priests of the Lizardmen - sleep most of the time, and when they wake up, they speak in very short sentences without any context. As a result, unpleasant things have happened. When the High Elves arrived in Lustria, they were brought before a Slaan who said, "They should not be here". His Saurus guards read this as "Destroy all High Elves" and killed them. Whether he actually meant "Send them home" will never be known.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Damn it, Emperor. Do you have any idea how much trouble you would have saved if you were only able to occasionally explain stuff to your kids? The Horus Heresy, for one. Simply adding "I have fragile crap under construction down there" to his sorcery prohibition would prevent Magnus from acting like a moron — between a working webway, alive and loyal Thousand Sons and the fact that most of humanity's knowledge of Warp is a handful of crumbs from Magnus's table, the setback could be minimized even if Horus Heresy happened anyway.
  • In Rocket Age Ganymedians didn't realise that human prospectors couldn't survive being separated from their organs, so their first attempts at taking prisoners went badly.

    Theater 
  • Gilbert and Sullivan were also fond of this trope, but they actually hang a lampshade on it in the Act I finale of The Mikado, when Katisha tries to tell the people of Titipu that Nanki Poo is the son of the Mikado, only to have the chorus interrupt her every time she opens her mouth.
  • William Shakespeare seemed to be fond of this trope. The most famous example is probably Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet fakes her own death, and her message to Romeo explaining the situation never reaches him, causing Romeo to kill Paris and commit suicide. Upon discovering this, Juliet also kills herself.
    • Discussed in Bells Are Ringing, where answering service girl Ella tries to explain to a policeman that "my job is to get messages to people on time" and imagines herself at "Veronaphone" passing Juliet's message on to Romeo.
      "See what I could have done? Maybe I'm right! Maybe I'm wrong! But if I'd got that message through on time, I'm telling you—THOSE TWO KIDS WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY!"
    • Othello was easily swayed by Iago to believe his wife had been cheating on him and kills her. Only later does he realize that if he had bothered to verify the truth with anyone other than Iago, the stories wouldn't have matched up. Emilia at least was smart enough to figure out what was going on.
  • In The Glass Menagerie, Tom doesn't tell Jim that the dinner he invited Jim to serves the purpose of introducing Jim as a suitor to Tom's sister, Laura. Jim is engaged to be married.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney has this problem a lot. Vague letters or notes with no clear addressee on them are the most common culprits, although the entire backstory of "Bridge to the Turnabout" could have been solved by good communication without anyone dying. The last one is tragically lampshaded by Godot, who points out that the whole situation would never have happened if he had simply told Phoenix what was going on instead of trying to redeem himself.
    • Actually, the lampshading is wrong as Godot could've prevented the entire thing from happening had the letter, which led to the entire events of the case, been burned when Godot had first obtained it!

    Web Comics 
  • In Koan Of The Day, the guru asks the tortoise for money and a misunderstanding occurs.
  • Order of the Stick:
    • In this strip, Thog is questioned by a prison guard, and gives an honest and accurate account that confirms Elan's attempt to explain that he was framed by his Evil Twin brother Nale. However, Thog's statement is chock-full of homophones (and far more elaborate than his usual speech), rendering it comprehensible (with a bit of effort) to the reader but total gibberish to the guard.
    • Elan's aforementioned attempt to explain just digs him into deeper trouble, but that isn't an example of this trope — for him, it's perfectly in character to go off on ill-considered tangents.
    • In a particularly tragic example of this, Varsuuvius in the Battle of Azure City is inadvertently discovered by fleeing soldiers who stumble upon him while invisible. They ask hir to save them with hir magic, but since s/he fled the battle because s/he was out of spells, the soldiers stand around allowing the hobgoblins to catch up and slaughter them. V might have convinced them to continue running if s/he said "I am out of spells you fools! Flee for your lives!", though doing so might have made the hobgoblins aware of him as well. V spends the next few months in a sleep-deprived equivalent state so as not to relive that nightmare.
    • It gets worse: when V tells hir mate that s/he made a Deal with the Devil to save hir and their children, and s/he gets angry. S/he insists that s/he doesn't know the whole story. S/he admits this, but calls hir on keeping the power she needed to save their family, and asks hir to make a choice between hir power and their family. V could have tried to explain more, if only to justify hirself and why s/he needs (or wants) to keep hir power a little longer, but instead s/he just says that s/he needs to make everything right again. An ultimatum had been issued and time was slipping away, but for someone who wants to keep both, V certainly isn't acting in a manner that will let hir do so. Though hir mental state may be justified.
    • Roy's eagerness to get resurrected and his father being a Jerkass cause him to miss a crucial piece of information — namely, the details of V's brief defection to Evil. Since V is too ashamed to tell hir friends the details either, the combination of failed and missed communication places V in exactly the position desired by the IFCC in the first place: to establish control of Girard's Gate for themselves.
    • Lord Shojo's death is a literal example of this trope. While in some ways, his Obfuscating Insanity and scheming served him well during his life, it comes to bite him in the ass when the insanely overzealous Miko misinterprets his behavior as that of a traitor and kills him. This subsequently leads to the fall of Azure City to Redcloak's hobgoblin army, the deaths of nearly all of the paladins of the Sapphire Guard at Xykon's hand, and the destruction of the Gate that they were guarding.
  • In Girl Genius, much bloodshed could be avoided if certain main characters (most notably Agatha Heterodyne and Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and his son Gilgamesh) simply sat down and talked to each other. Instead, distrust and misunderstandings lead to characters fighting each other and working at cross-purposes when they could be allies, while the real enemy gets away. On top of that, every last one of them is either a Mad Scientist or a creation thereof, both classifications of individual not normally known for their ability to think on a level we usually call "normal", let alone communicate on it.
    • To begin with, an escalation of distrust between Barry and Klaus. Barry and "Clays" let Beetle alone know that they're here and the heir is here too. Back on the airship, Klaus upon discovery who Agatha is immediately ordered to lock her up and keep sedated, and much the same for Punch and Judy.
    • During the Sturmhalten story arc. Tarvek deliberately sabotaging Agatha's holographic message to the Baron about Lucrezia being the Other and having taken over her body didn't help either. Instead, the edited message made it sounds like she was accusing the Baron of being the Other. And Dimo apparently forgot his previous conviction that the Baron should be informed ASAP about the Geisterdamen with the Hive Engines leaving Sturmhalten through underground tunnels. Various characters have pieces of the puzzle, but crucial information is not relayed. If only they shared this information, they could easily resolve their problems. At this stage, Baron Wulfenbach would dissect Agatha, seeing as how she's possessed by the Other and all that's holding her back is a single flimsy amulet. As Gilgamesh said, "let's be fair: He does have cause".
      • A lot of grief might have been saved had DuPree actually sent a device team down to analyze Agatha's transmitter in Sturmhalten, instead of just joking about doing it and then bombing the damn thing.
    • Exemplified in this comic, where the wrong impression is given simply because the relaying party has a different perception of the words, and thus gets the meaning wrong. (On the other hand, that example is subverted on the very next page, when Agatha makes it clear that she doesn't trust the Castle's interpretation of the scene.)
    • What probably makes the problem worse is that the Big Bad is very good at sowing deception and hostility within groups. She being the most obvious root of mistrust between Barry and Klaus, while the problems caused in later chapters were most definitely due to the Big Bad's moles and hidden supporters along with seceretly mind controlling first Agatha and now the Baron
      • However, they eventually could compare notes with Gil, making him the guy who knows the most about what's going on. Gil was the only party Klaus and Agatha both have reason to trust and who would be in a position to MAKE them both listen. Except that Klaus ended up either convinced or compelled to pretend that Gil is wasped.
  • This strip of The Perry Bible Fellowship.
  • In Panthera, Onca, who is inexperienced with her transformation, and consequently has trouble speaking in it, barely manages to convey the message that they've been tricked and are fighting the good guys instead of the bad guys to Tigris. However, in an almost comedic case of You Have to Believe Me, she fails to provide any of the evidence that led her to this conclusion, resulting in Tigris being disgusted that the villains managed to trick Onca into switching sides in a few hours. It doesn't help that Tigris views Onca as dangerously incompetent and naive.
  • In El Goonish Shive, this is averted by Justin when confronted with an angry, incomprehensible fire monster; his first response is to try and work out a way to communicate, rather than go straight to beating the tar out of it. It attacks anyway, but it's the thought that counts.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , Aaryana nearly kills Dan because an Oracle's vaguely worded answer strongly implied that Dan killed her beloved mentor Destania aka Dan's mother. The misunderstanding is immediately cleared up by Dan's sister before any murder happens. Later in one strip the characters wonder why Oracles are always so vague; the last panel reveals that the cryptic bullcrap act is mandated by the Oracles' Union.
  • Inverted in Freefall: both Raibert and Florence had reasons not to read each other's messages. As a result, despite his ordering that an upgrade not go out, she went and sabotaged it -- fortunately, because his order was being ignored. As a consequence, about 450 millions robots did NOT have their minds and personalities erased.
  • This trope is what made Split Screen go: Jan went for a decade without speaking to her childhood best friend/love interest, rather than confess her feelings or confront Jeremy about his. When she does finally confess to him, she says her feelings are past tense. Jeremy, on the other hand, dodges and avoids the subject, past and present, rather than tell her how he felt, resulting in mixed messages that only fueled Jan's frustration.
  • Awkward Zombie: Apparently this pretty much sums up the author's feelings about the game Bravely Default.
  • Welcome To Pixelton: A giant eats the protagonists, and they kill him by pressing the self-destruct button in his stomach. Unfortunately, that must have been a feature, because it turns out the giant is from a race of transporters who carry passengers in their stomachs, and he was a big fan of the protagonists who wanted them to meet his family. Oops.
  • Homestuck: For most of the story, most of the characters aren't actually able to talk to each other and communicate through electronic means. The trolls and humans have completely different cultures. They are all pre-teens, an age group not known for its good judgement (though most of them are pretty bright for their age). And whenever someone does try to ask another person who knows more about the whole situation for advice, that person is usually wrong and/or trying to manipulate them. The end result is a bunch of ill-informed kids messing around with reality itself.

    Web Original 
  • A literal example in Survival of the Fittest Simon Wood mistakes Darnell Butler for a player of the game (not altogether unreasonable, as he is holding a bloodied sword) and attacks, obstentatiously to buy his girlfriend time to escape. Before Darnell can get the chance to explain, he has accidentally killed Simon.
  • Played for laughs in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. When Dr. Horrible tries to warn Captain Hammer about the broken Death Ray, he interrupts, saying "I have no time for your warnings, Dr. Horrible". Then proceeds to toss off a one-liner before firing. It Doesnt End Well
    • The whole musical is based around a more tragic instance, though. If Billy had just told Penny how he felt at the start, he may never have built the death ray, leading to her tragic death.
  • In Touhou roleplay Touhou: a Glimmer of an Outside World Reimu was suspecting Yukari in making the rift in the sky, and Yukari was thinking Reimu's new costume is Evil Costume Switch. Once they start to "communicate," they dug themselves deeper in each other's eyes.
  • Justified in Atop the Fourth Wall, where much mutual suffering is caused to both Linkara and Jaeris because the latter wouldn't just ask for help, instead taking what he needed by force. However, he had tried to ask for help in the past... and it failed miserably (and lethally, for the people trying to help).
  • In Chapter 19.2 of Worm, Skitter explicitly recalls and sets out to defy this trope when talking to Weld and Miss Militia about Calvert:
Skitter:I’d always hated those parts in the TV shows and movies, where everything could be resolved with the simple truth. It was why I’d never been able to watch romantic comedies. It grated: the sitcom-esque comedic situations which would be resolved if people would only sit down, explain, and listen to one another, the tragedies which could have been prevented with a few simple words.
I didn’t want to be one of those tragedies.

  • Noob has a couple of blatant cases.
    • In the first situation, the guild finds out that Gaea somehow got Fantöm to help her level up. Later on, they get confronted by Fantöm's teammates, two of which are his guild leader and the guild's recruiter. Omega Zell, who dreams of being the next Fantöm, somehow interprets the leader's "We're looking for a member of your guild. It's about Fantöm" as "We're looking for an understudy for Fantöm and we completely forgot about the bad impression Omega Zell gave our recruiter last Season". Omega Zell says he's the person they're looking for and it's only in the middle of strangling him that Fantöm's leader says "Actually, we're looking for the person who has been blackmailing Fantöm". After Omega Zell's Man Child guildmate asked what the strangling was about.
    • In the second situation, Gaea doesn't pay much attention to her place getting broken into but nothing being stolen because she thought that her impulsive and extremely strong roomate had simply forgotten her keys.
  • In Manipulation Game Of Fun after Aspiration send a pm to Checklad on day 3 asking whom he considered an enemy or ally, Checklad immediately went ahead to try and kill him. Why? The pm was so poorly worded that it was seen as a threat to Checklad, it let to Aspiration's dead on day 4.
  • In Ten Little Roosters, at least three members could have been spared deaths if they had spoken up:
    • In episode 3, Chris confronts Burnie and tells him he ran into the killer. Instead of answering Burnie's response ("You saw the killer?! Who is it?!"), he starts describing it more like a The Lord of the Rings-style thing, leading to Burnie's annoyed "The Reason You Suck" Speech , Chris' Heroic Sacrifice-slash-Stupid Sacrifice and Burnie's Ironic Death the following episode.
    • In episode 9, Adam, who is hiding in the mocap room, spots Miles rummaging through Monty Oum's workstation and inches his way to the window and whispers "Miles? Is that you?" instead of speaking louder. Because of this, Miles has no idea the killer is strangling Adam and mistakes a video file of it for "dot sex".