In a crazy world like ours, we are inundated with conversations online and off it. Communication is mostly on the fly through the most impersonal modes. The resulting frenzy has led us to overlook some of the important aspects that are critical to effective communication. Here are 8 common communication errors that we usually commit and how to fix them:
Common communication error # 1: You are not listening
We mostly understand “communication” to imply speaking. But the reality is that communication equally involves listening too. It’s the crucial act of listening that helps you come up with an appropriate and relevant response when it is your turn to speak.
How to fix it: Become a better listener. Develop patience to listen. Shut your inner voice which is already thinking of a response. Make listening an activity in itself like speaking is. When you speak, you expect people to patiently listen to you. Extend the same courtesy to others. Here are 5 ways to listen better by Julian Treasure.
Common communication error # 2: Your communication is not tailor made
One shoe size never fits all. And this is true of communication too. Whether you are speaking to a peer or a senior, whether your aim is to persuade, inform or give feedback – each one needs to be tailor made. In one of the top 10 Harvard Business Review articles in 2017- change the way you persuade, authors Gary Williams and Robert Miller discuss 5 kinds of leaders and how the way to persuade each one is different depending on their decision making patterns. That’s how critical customising your communication is.
How to fix it: Have a clear understanding of who you are speaking to and what is the goal of your communication. Your communication should hit both these points in order to have the desired effect.
Common communication error # 3: You are not looking at audience perspective
Almost all the time we think about what we have to say to others. Seldom about what they want to know. People usually hear what they want to and not what you want to tell them.
How to fix it: So step into their shoes first. Turn around your perspective to theirs. If we think about others’ perspective and form our sentences accordingly, the chances of successful communication are much higher
Common communication error # 4: You are making assumptions
Many a times we assume that everyone already knows the back story. And are equipped with all the information required to take action. We skip the gaps in information that might appear glaring for others impeding their capacity to take action
How to fix it: Don’t work out of assumptions. Be direct and ask questions. Better still, fill the gaps. Err on the side of providing all the information even if it to bring everyone upto speed with the back story. Make sure all the details required to complete a project are given out.
Common communication error # 5: Your CTA – call to action – is not clear
“Please do the needful” is not only grammatically wrong but is also the worst CTA to end an email with. If you clearly spell out what needs to be done, this sentence is completely redundant and should be banished from email writing. Even at the end of a meeting, if the whole team is vaguely responsible for working on a project, it is definitely a recipe for disaster.
How to fix it: End your emails/personal discussions with specific actionables and assign them to specific people. Find out if they have any doubts or questions that might act as hurdles in completion of the task. Empower them with answers so that your team mates can do their tasks successfully.
Common communication error # 6: You are not empathetic
If you are wondering what does touchy-feely empathy got to do with hard core business communication, you are not alone. Even organisations have a problem getting their employees to be empathetic to each other and to customers. Although it has been proven that empathy with customers is the way forward for businesses if they want to do well, it is still hard to convince employees to do it.
How to fix it: Start an empathy program in your company. Introduce the concept of emotional intelligence – which is a time tested concept since Daniel Goleman came out with the book of the same name in mid 90’s elaborately discussing studies that proved the importance of EI. Empathy is important at organisational levels and at the individual. Start being empathetic to your own colleagues and team members.
Common communication error # 7: You take introverts for granted
Susan Cain‘s pathbreaking book from 2012, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that cant stop talking set the record straight about introverts. It was eye opening to read about studies after studies that show that people who speak the most don’t essentially have the greatest ideas or are the best leaders. In fact, contrary to popular belief, teams under introvert leaders do better than those that work with extrovert leaders. This is not to say that all of us should talk less and practice silence. The point is that, introverts – the popular ones include Mark Zuckerberg, Gandhi, J. K. Rowling – have their own set of strengths. And neglecting the quieter ones in your teams could be a big mistake.
How to fix it: Don’t write someone off only because he or she is usually quiet. Read Susan’s book for sure. It gave me a whole new insight into the world of introverts and how they can’t be written off as the shy, quiet ones. Start a Quiet Revolution of your own to make introverts feel included for what they can contribute to work.
Common communication error # 8: You are not using the right medium
The plethora of communication options, thanks to advanced technology, has only added to complications. We consider prevalent mediums fit for all kinds of communication. We used SMS once upon a time till it was was phased out as “vintage”, paving the way for Whatsapp. Official communication seems to be have a blanket cover on emails. But then this isn’t a rule to go by.
How to fix it: Choose the right medium for the kind of communication. Don’t shoot bad news over an email. Step out of your cubicle for a personal chat for important clarifications. Stop email tennis and pick up the phone once in a while when back and forth emails don’t work.
Bonus common communication error: You are not assertive
This is one of the most common errors we make to avoid having difficult conversations. Whether it is limiting access to technology for the kids or talking to a co-worker who’s always late. We either don’t say anything or we react. Most of the times we just put up with things and let relationships go sour.
How to fix it: Work on your assertive skills. All of us have the right to speak up albeit respectfully. Being assertive is a win-win situation where one can communicate openly without blame and prejudice. The art of being able to sat what you want to without bringing the other person down is a testimony to your high self esteem and respect for your co-workers.
Can you think of any more common errors that we commit. Feel free to share them in your comments so that the readers can benefit from your input. Some of the errors I’ve mentioned here may seem too small to pay attention too all the time. But following each one of them religiously can transform your communication with the people around you.