6 Common Communication Mistakes in the Workplace and Home and How to Avoid Them

Let’s face it, how we communicate has the power to determine the nature and strength of our relationships and connections, whether in the workplace or at home.   Poor communication skills can break down relationships and escalate conflict.  That’s why it’s so important to communicate effectively.  Here are 6 common mistakes and how to avoid them

1.   Using the word “but”.  Anything that comes before the “but” is typically ignored.  For instance, “You’re doing a great job with project X but I’d like you to prioritize the more pressing projects.”  Instead, try substituting the word “and” for “but” so that your full message is gets heard.

2.   Discrediting what you’re about to say.  This is related to the use of “but” where much of your message will simply not get heard.  For example, when you start sentences with phrases like “This may not be as interesting as what he just said,” “Don’t take this the wrong way,” “This might sound silly,” whatever comes next will be largely ignored.  Instead, eliminate these phrases whenever possible.

3.   Poor body language.  Did you know that over 70% of our communication is non-verbal?  We may not even realize that when speaking, our eye contact is inconsistent or our arms are crossed.  Poor eye contact typically communicates lack of interest or even lack of trustworthiness.  Be conscious if you find yourself looking around the room while another person is talking to you and remind yourself to steady your eye contact.  By the same token, crossing your arms (or even your legs or feet) typically communicates close-mindedness.  Instead, try open body language, leaning in to show interest as your body faces the other person speaking with you.

4.   Taking it personally.  It’s all too easy to take someone’s anger and frustration personally, especially that of a close friend or boss.  Remember that how the other person talks to you – the tone of voice and what is said – simply reflects what he or she is thinking and feeling.  It has nothing to do with you personally.  Therefore, be an objective observer and see the situation as a problem to be solved and voice your suggestions on how to resolve it.  Consider, “it sounds like this is a big concern for you.  How about if I take some of the load off and do X?”  This can greatly reduce the chances that a conflict will escalate.

5.   Reacting emotionally to what is said.  Many times we hear something we don’t like and are tempted to tell the other person to “shove it” or “stick it” and we insert some form of profanity into our response.  This is related to “taking it personally” above.  The key is to suspend your emotions and simply clarify that you heard correctly.

6.   Jumping to your own defense.  Many times when things get heated, we automatically respond by assigning blame to someone or something else.  Instead, first try validating what the other person is thinking and feeling such as I understand how you feel that way or I get it.  This way the other person is likely to feel heard and more open to what you have to say next.

Good luck and let me know your results!


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