9 Communication Mistakes You Might be Doing

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Communication is the foundation of our relationships and how we understand the world around us. Person to person communication is the richest form of communication, but oftentimes we mess that up. Improving your communication will only benefit your personal, professional and romantic relationships.

Practice makes perfect. The same goes for communication. Anyone can learn to be a better communicator by observing their communication habits, and avoiding these 9 communication mistakes.

Communication Mistakes To Avoid

1. Interrupting

Children by age 3 typically understand that interrupting is not acceptable behavior, however many adults have not realized how rude interrupting someone is. When you interrupt someone you are demonstrating to them that you do not care about what they are saying, but yet you want them to show respect to you and listen to them speak. Seldomly there are necessary instances for interruption, and if you absolutely have to, simply say “I apologize for interrupting, but,”. For example, your boss is in the middle of a casual conversation, you could say “sorry to interrupt, but an urgent call is waiting for you”. Don’t get in the habit of even “polite” interruption, practice patience, most things can wait. Listening is an active behavior-take time to listen to what someone else is saying, but also don’t just think of what you are going to say next while they are speaking.

2. Your Body Language Doesn’t Match Your Words

Non-verbal communication makes up about 93% of communication, whereas verbal communication only makes up about 7%.  If a person asks you if you are doing okay, and you say “I’M FINE!” in a sharp tone or “I’m fine.” in a blunt tone and avoid eye contact, perhaps cross your arms-well guess what, your body language is shouting that you’re everything but fine. Unfortunately, we women can be known to use this communication mistake. It’s called being passive-aggressive. Cut the drama, and say what you mean and don’t make people guess or be uncertain about what you are truly saying.

3. Avoiding Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact during conversation is a good habit to get into-you’ll find it necessary when in a job interview, or making an important announcement at work. When you hold eye contact, you are showing that you are engaged in the conversation and the person whom you are communicating with is important to you. Eye contact also builds trust. Be careful when you avoid eye contact, because you could be letting the other person know you are not being honest, or you just are disinterested in the conversation. Also, eye contact is extremely beneficial in conversation, as it helps recall and increases attentional focus. If you are a parent, try making your kids look at you in the eyes before telling them to go pick up their toys, they will most likely remember what you told them to do when they leave your sight.

4. Dominating a Conversation

Unless you are a professor leading a lecture or giving out instruction, one person should not be doing the majority of the talking. Casual conversation should be a two-way process. Dominating a conversation is a sign of egocentrism where you want to overpower a conversation, and not let in any room for topic change or someone a chance to speak. Remember, the best way to learn is to listen. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

5. Forcing your Opinion

“Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has them”. Okay, pardon the crude analogy, but it is true. We are humans built with our own opinions. Some people are more opinionated than others, and some are more vocal about their opinion than others. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Understand that you can’t change the way someone thinks or feels about something. Forcing your opinion is trying to control someone, and disregard their personality. Even if you had a similar cultural, religious, economic, and social upbringing as someone else, they still will have a different mindset than you. During conversation, be open to hearing someone else’s point of view or opinion without trying to persuade them of your own opinion. By listening and respecting someone else’s opinion, guess what? They will respect yours.

6. Overstepping your Bounds

Every relationship has different communication comfort levels. Maybe you have a great relationship with your boss, maybe you are closer to one family member than another. Understand that people have different comfort levels of sharing information about themselves or their loved ones. Don’t take offense that someone may not be comfortable sharing something about themselves with you. It may be that you have not gained their trust yet, or perhaps that subject is off the table.

Be sensitive to certain conversation topics-some people are more transparent than others. Don’t lend out personal information about yourself with the hopes that someone will give out personal information about themselves.  It doesn’t work that way. I once had a coworker that asked me a personal question about my career goals.  I was not comfortable talking about this with them. When I didn’t answer, they talked about their own career goals to “help” prompt my answer. Figure out each relationship’s levels and don’t try to be in everyone’s personal business. This is being a busy-body.

7. Venting or Gossiping

Be cautious about who you vent to about something. It is natural to want to get a burden off your chest and vent to someone about your problem or situation. However, there is a fine line between venting about a person that may be upsetting you (in which you are looking for a solution) and gossiping about someone. We all have been guilty about engaging in gossip, whether we listen to it or start it. Gossip only discredits your credibility, and people will soon realize you’re the office gossip or the “loose-lips” in the family. If someone gossips to you about someone else, you better believe they will also gossip about you to someone else. Someone who talks bad about others tries to boost their self-esteem by putting down someone else.

8. Manipulating

This is probably the worst communication mistake someone could make. A manipulative person will often use guilt-tripping in conversations. They thrive in the dramatic and use it to their advantage. The thing is, nobody likes to be guilt-tripped, especially if the situation is sincere, and not in need of loving correction. I’m sure we all can think of a stereotypical mother-in-law that says to their child “I never see you anymore”, when in fact she sees her adult kids frequently, but maybe not as much as she would like.

First of all, do not speak in absolutes, because they are rarely accurate. Examples of absolutes are “never” and “always”. Saying, “you never listen to me” implies that 100% of the time, the other person never listens, which is simply not true. Even if the majority of the time they do not listen, saying never is an exaggeration. An accusation like that only puts the other person in defense mode, and they will soon put up a wall.

9. Expecting People to be Mind Readers

“Don’t they know that I don’t like it when…?” No, no they don’t. No matter how high someone’s Emotional Quotient score is, people are not mind readers. An effective communicator will not leave gaps in a conversation to be filled in by the other party. Effective communicators will clearly lay out their expectations, likes, and dislikes. In romantic relationships, I often hear one party say to their partner, “I am not a mind reader!”. Even in marriage, one can’t expect their spouse to always know what they are thinking or feeling.

I once worked at a daycare where the instructor would tell the kids who could barely talk to “use your words” instead of make grunting noises or cry if they wanted something. The kids would then immediately articulate themselves by saying “juice” “more”, “all done”, etc because they knew that’s how they would be understood and be able to accomplish their goal. Also, in a world where we heavily rely on our digital devices, it is easy to think that every time someone doesn’t respond to a phone call, email, or text that there is an ulterior motive behind it.

Being an effective communicator will be a huge asset in personal development which will help at work and at home.

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