Effective communication. The fundamental component to any success story. Whether it’s having a successful career or a successful marriage. Successful relationships with co-workers, customers, friends and family. Being a successful leader or manager. It all essentially comes down to one thing. How effectively you communicate. If you’re not achieving success in one or more of these areas, it could be simply because… Well. Your communication sucks. Here are 4 critical mistakes to avoid to improve your communication effectiveness:
Mistake 1: You’re focusing on you
Are you always thinking about what you’re going to say next when talking to someone? Or that what you want to say is way more important, meaning you constantly interrupt people? Newsflash! Communication is a two-way street. If you’re too busy listening to the voice in your head, or speaking over people, you’re not going to hear anything the other person is saying. Effective communication requires active listening. Really taking the time to hear the other person’s point of view, or simply what they have to say. If you find yourself always focusing on what you want to achieve out of the conversation, or what amazingly smart or funny thing you’re going to say next – stop, and listen. You never know. You might actually learn something.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” – Bernard Baruch
Mistake 2: You’re not being honest
93% of communication is non-verbal. Meaning that it’s not the words you choose that communicate your message – it’s your body language and your voice (tone, pitch, speed, volume etc.). If you’re telling your co-worker that you love working with them, but on the inside you’re fantasising about throwing them out of the window, I guarantee your body language and voice, not to mention your actions, will give you away. And when people notice your words are not congruent with your behaviour, they’ll stop trusting you – leading to ineffective communication. Instead of hiding or lying about what you’re thinking, communicate what’s going through your mind in an objective, non-blaming way and seek to maintain trust through open communication. Discuss the problem, not the person.
Mistake 3: You’re not in control of your emotions
If you have problems managing stress or anger, then this could significantly impact the effectiveness of your communication. If you repeatedly get angry, then people could label you as an ‘angry person’ and will immediately put up defensive barriers before you’ve even begun to speak. They could even avoid communicating with you completely, which not only affects the quality of your relationships but also your ability to complete tasks that might require the input or help of others. Stress can impair your ability to listen and think rationally. Becoming aware of your emotions and how to manage them is essential for effective communication.
Mistake 4: You assume the other person is the problem
“He completely misunderstood what I asked him to do. He’s so stupid!” Nope. Try again. If someone hasn’t understood you, it’s not a reflection on them – it’s a reflection on you. More specifically on how well you communicate. Your communication is only as good as the way in which it is received and understood. The best communicators are those who seek to communicate their message in a way the recipient will understand it. If you feel people are continuously misunderstanding you or they’re not ‘listening’ to you, then chances are you could be the problem – not them.
Whether you want more success in your career, as a leader or at home, having excellent communication skills and self-awareness is essential. Start looking at the areas of your life where things are not as good as they could be, and ask yourself – how could my current communication be contributing to this problem?