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April 17, 2016

Five Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Everyone has known the embarrassment of saying something and wishing they could take it back. When we speak without thinking, we can hurt someone’s feelings, damage our reputations, or sabotage our careers. Here are five communication pitfalls to avoid.Man in mirror yes no

  1. Shooting from the hip. It is easy to respond immediately, especially if you are upset or angry. Stop yourself and communicate more thoughtfully by asking for time to respond. Say something like, “That’s an interesting point. Give me a few minutes to think about it.” Then, think before you speak.
  2. Sending e-mail without proofreading. This is a common mistake. It happens because e-mail is quick, and we tend to move fast when handling it. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to proofread e-mail before hitting send whereas it can take a long time to clarify what you really meant or to apologize for a negative tone. See my new workshop Writing and Managing E-mail for help.
  3. Being too brief. Most people want us to get to the point when we are writing, but that can create an extremely abrupt, offensive tone. If you use a lot of short sentences, you are punching the reader, so lengthen your sentence structure. Make sure you honor basic business etiquette by using please and thank you and by making requests rather than barking orders.
  4. Rambling. The opposite of being too brief is rambling. If you ramble when you are writing, people won’t read. Generally, if your writing is too long, you are providing too much background and context. Strip these out and put them in a section labeled “Background” at the end of the document for people who want to read it. If you ramble when you are speaking, you need to focus on the points you want to make and watch the listener’s body language. It will tell you if you are going on too long.
  5. Assuming you have been understood. Too often, we think we have communicated our meaning when, in fact, the listener has gone away with a different understanding. Encourage people to ask questions of you to ascertain their understanding. Don’t rely on them, however, also check for understanding by your asking questions that start with how, why, or what. See my blog post Shhh! Listen! for more information.

 

Take some time to make sure your communication is clear, concise, and correct, and you will be more positively productive.

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