Have you ever found yourself in hot water with a customer or had to deal with an upset employee because of a miscommunication? Failed communication can lead to anything from a simple misunderstanding between coworkers to billing issues and beyond. Nobody is perfect, but there are some bad communication habits that are made on a daily basis that are damaging to professional relationships and your business. Here are a few bad communication habits you may be guilty of and how to best break them:
· Expand your vocabulary – Being aware of what you say and how you say it can help you avoid overusing words or phrases. There are many free services you can sign up for that provide a “Word of the Day.” You can even challenge yourself by trying to use your new word in a conversation. When we are agitated, irritated, or frustrated, our impulse-driven Neanderthal brain has a way of taking over. This part of our brain is terrible at picking words. The more words your brain has to choose from, the better your communication will become.
· Control the tone of your voice and your body language – Again, being aware of how you say things is just as important as what is actually being said. A study by Psychology Today states that only 7% of human communication comes from words, while 38% is from a person’s tone of voice, and 55% comes from body language. Having self-control and self-awareness is extremely important, so as not to come off passive aggressive or hostile.
· Avoid Interrupting – Sometimes, you just have to let a person vent and get things off their chest. This is especially true when dealing with someone who is upset or feels they have had bad service. Interrupting will lead to a litany of communication issues, from assuming to lack of clarity. Even if someone is bringing an issue to you that you have heard before, remember, it is their first time telling YOU. Be open to what they have to say and don’t just rudely cut them off before they can finish. Practice waiting at least 2 seconds after someone has finished speaking to give you input or ideas.
· Listen – As a society, we are too distracted and scattered to focus, let alone on the person right in front of us. Be intentional and actively listen to people. This will help you to be present in the conversation and not get defensive; because you will be listening to what the person is really saying. Put your phone down, make eye contact, and practice the ‘old school’ behavior of listening. You will become a far better communicator and be more knowledgeable about your colleagues and clients. Most importantly, by listening, you can avoid making all of the communication mishaps listed above.
· Repeat – Make yourself repeat back what you heard the other person is telling you. This will show that you were actively listening to, and are concerned for, the other person. Repetition can help to avoid pitfalls like assumptions and misinterpretations.
· Relying too heavily on electronic communication – Email, test, IM, DM, and most other form of technology are great tools that make our professional lives easier every day. However, you can’t see things like facial expression, body language, or hear things like tone of voice over an email. Therefore, your overall message could get lost or misinterpreted. You might offend someone in an email, while the same thing said in person would not cause an issue. Sometimes it is best to schedule a meeting or simply pick up the phone.
Even if you are a repeat offender or are only guilty of these sometimes, there is always room for improvement. If you are diligent you will eliminate bad habits, which means you will dramatically improve your professional relationships and help your business grow faster!