How not to be an awesome communicator

Inspiring conversations – 10 common mistakes that stop you from becoming an awesome communicator.

Often, it’s the remarkable leaders we have the most inspiring conversations with.

We all know someone who is brilliant at communicating. At a dinner party their profound input may silence all diners. At the work table, somehow their contribution seems to be worth more.

So what prevents the less impressive communicators from doing it well? Here are 10 ways where people limit themselves, their relationships and the outcomes they are looking to achieve.

  1. Have ‘yoursations’ not conversations

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention. To really listen.

A good conversation is like a tennis rally – back and forth. Taking up more of the air time in a conversation is known as ‘yoursations’.

  1. Search little for the ‘real truth’

Coming to a conversation or business decision thinking you have all the facts is as pointless as going to relationship counselling on your own. When you’re solely prepared to listen to your side of the facts, you are more likely to reach flawed outcomes.

It is a combination of what you know plus what they know that leads to great decision-making, remarkable outcomes and deepened relationship building.

  1. Need to be right

When your need to be right dominates the agenda, then you are likely to steer the conversation in the way you need, with no regard for damage along the way.

Being right becomes a lonely existence where few people trust you and even fewer want to work with you.

  1. Don’t make others feel ‘safe’

When both parties feel ‘safe enough to be honest with each other is when you reach the best outcomes and preserve, or in some cases restore, great working relationships.

When we feel stressed or unsafe in a conversation, we show fight or flight behaviours. This leads to an unhealthy exchange that gets worse, rather than better.

  1. Don’t highlight the real issue

Most people don’t feel confident enough to go straight to the heart of the problem. As a compromise, they sugar-coat it or walk around it in the hope that the other person will do the heavy lifting and see the truth hidden underneath.

We may not have developed the courage or the right interpersonal skills to discuss the real issue. Or sometimes we interpret the issue incorrectly.

We often decide whether someone is right or wrong based on our own perceptions.

  1. Let our ‘Board of Directors’ do the thinking

We all have a view of the world based on our upbringing, culture, faith, community, age etc. These lenses or Board of Directors (BODs) skew how we see things. The BODs tells us that our interpretation of life, people and situations is the right one. But what if they are wrong? They often are.

  1. Take others at face value

We often decide whether someone is right or wrong based on our own perceptions. We look at someone’s words and behaviours and judge them. But this is not who they are. This is often only a small percentage of what’s going on for them.

  1. Lead with opinions & feelings

Often we find it difficult to decipher the difference between the facts and our own opinions and feelings. So we lead with our feelings and opinions and wonder why things go wrong. When we open conversations with our feelings it’s logical that the other person is not going to effectively take the new information on board.

  1. Use ‘honesty’ as an excuse to verbally assassinate

Those four words, ‘I’m just being honest’, seem to give some people permission to say precisely what they think, whether it is the truth or not. Not only does this deplete the trust and respect bank, but also the discretionary effort bank-regardless of whether we are friends or work colleagues. It’s our own moral compass that we need to take ownership of.

  1. Don’t know how to self-manage

Do you run and hide or always have to have the last word? Either way, knowing how you react puts you a step ahead when it comes to self-management in a loaded conversation. Most people don’t recognise their reactions until the damage is done. How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.

While these are the most common blocks to outstanding communication, the good news is that people can learn the skills and self-awareness to become the people others want to follow.

Georgia Murch, Author, ‘Fixing feedback’

This article first appeared in issue 11 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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