Common Communication Blunders

Constantly Interrupting Others cannot get a word in edgewise.  You hijack conversations — You talk over everyone.
Inappropriate Jokes No one finds your jokes funny or your jokes can offend others (gender, politics, race, etc.)
Lack of Clarity You are unclear.  Others may say they are confused or look puzzled.  You may find your request are ignored or performed incorrectly.
On the Defensive Combative, ready to “defend” your views, positions, etc. – a fighter.  Everyone seems to offend you.
Poor listening Skills You do not pay attention to what the other person is saying.
Poor Body Language This includes lack of eye contact, poor posture, slouching, twirling your hair, covering your mouth, limp handshake, crushing handshake, etc.
Rambling Lengthy conversations, you give the long answer to everything
Weak Communication You speak very soft, loud, slow, fast, etc.   Communication skills can be separated into two forms:  Verbal and non-verbal.   Let’s take a look at each form:

Verbal Communication

Communication Blunders Communication skills can enhance or hinder your professional image.   Your speech, including the way you talk and your choice of words, affect the way people see you.   Poor verbal communication skills can make you appear unprofessional, amateurish, unqualified, etc. Developing good communication skills take some work, but the rewards are great.  The key to effective verbal communication is listening:  Pay attention to what the other person is saying, acknowledge their statement and then make your point. Use words that are concise and specific are the best word choices. Rambling or using long sentences increase the risk of being misunderstood.   For instance, an insurance agent contacted me to offer an analysis of whether my current insurance was adequate for our needs.  I was interested and we made an appointment for him to conduct the analysis. When he arrived, he asked me to “please guide his way to the personal facilities so that he may refresh himself”.  I replied, “The restroom is located down the hall to the left.”  That was a precursor to what was to come.   I could not take him seriously as his presentation was full of rambling and insurance terminology. I felt like he was trying to hide something:   I went with another company. Make sure you use words that fit the audience at the event.  For example, let’s say you’re psychologist and you  are attending an event where there are no psychologists.  Leave the psychology terminology at the office.  No one is going to understand the Vygotskian perspectives on culture, communication and cognition.  And, your first impression will most likely not be positive (you may find yourself being avoided like the plague).

About those Inappropriate Jokes…

Jokes are a good ice breaker and it’s usually used to warm people up to you.  But it can backfire very fast when you tell jokes that offends others.   Remember when I said that there is a time for everything?  Well it’s not the right time to make a joke about others when making a first impression.  And, it is never wise to make jokes about others physical appearance, gender, political choice, religion, race, etc. Keep your jokes about situations you’ve experienced to match the event (i.e. if you are at a networking event, tell a joke about your experience with networking).  Now let’s say you make an appropriate joke and no one laughs. What do you do?  Acknowledge the silence and move on in the conversation.  For example, you smile (laugh at yourself) and say “Well that didn’t go as planned. By the way, your comments about the advantages in investing in ABC Company were on point.”

Non verbal communicationNon-Verbal Skills

Did you know that verbal communication is only 7% of how we communicate?  93% of our communication is based on non-verbal communication.  Our tone and facial expressions hugely impact non-verbal communication (38% and 55% respectively).  Let’s look further into how this impacts communication: “I can’t hear anything you’re saying because your actions are so loud” Before you say a word, people have already formed an impression of you through your non-verbal communication, which includes body language.  Body language provides signals about how you feel at the moment, what you think, etc.  The immediate areas include avoiding eye contact or the opposite “staring down”; poor posture (slouching, hunched shoulders), crossing arms or legs, covering you mouth, limp handshake, crushing handshake, etc. can create a negative first memory about you. You can overcome negative body language by becoming aware of your personality (There are several free online tests available for your personal use; a simple Google search on “free personality test” will provide many sites).  Your personality will give you clues on how you communicate non-verbally. For example, you may show your emotions through your facial expressions and you are very nervous about a presentation you are conducting. Being aware that you are expressive may remind you to practice some relaxation techniques to calm you so you won’t appear nervous.  Let’s say you have an aggressive personality and you are direct in your language.  Being aware of this will help you remember that you may have to tone down your personality because you may appear overbearing to others. Keep a steady tone, relaxed pace when you are speaking to others. This will help others feel at ease with you and put them in a position to listen to you. Communication is an exchange and everyone should feel they are understood during the exchange.  Now let’s take a look at the next blunder:  Appearance.