The quickest way to improve your professional image and set a better example for your employees is to improve your communication skills. And the simplest way to improve your communication skills is to stop doing things that repeatedly get you in trouble.
Bad communication habits are the punishment that keeps on giving even if you suffer from only one bad habit, it can recur in dozens of conversations and cause damage each time.
To fix a bad habit, you first need to be aware of it.
Tolerating these harmful behaviors is definitely NOT the best solution. Get specific solutions to your problems.
Here are seven of the most common bad communication habits that both you and your employees need to shed and here are tips on how to improve or eliminate them:
Bad habit #1: Multitasking when we should be listening. Technology that caused hypercommunication and instant self-expression has, ironically, made it harder for anyone to listen. Because of that, most people need to make a concerted effort to reinvigorate their listening skills.
Intentional listening will make you more present in conversations and will decisively improve your communication. “The ‘old school’ behavior of listening will help you become a much better communicator and will enable you to become far more knowledgeable about the people in your life.”
Bad habit #2: Letting your inner-Neanderthal pick your words. When we’re agitated or frustrated, a battle plays out between our impulse-driven Neanderthal brain and our more modern, deliberative brain. And while the Neanderthal parts of your brain are indispensable when you’re in physical danger, they are terrible at picking our words.
The goal: Stop talking and think for a minute whenever you’re frustrated or upset.
You don’t need to take a vow of silence but you do need to pause long enough to keep your more thoughtful and deliberative brain in charge.
Bad habit #3: Using authenticity as an excuse for bad behavior. “I was just being myself” sounds harmless, but it’s often an excuse to indulge in destructive behavior.
Smart communicators realize that by focusing on what they want to accomplish instead of what they want to say, they keep their conversational goals in their rightful place—above their feelings in terms of priority. As Tumlin notes, “Poor communication—when your words hijack your goals—isn’t a trait; it’s a choice.”
Imagine your office without tattletales, drama queens, whiners and bullies. Find out how to make that become a reality.
Bad habit #4: Asking faulty questions. Questions aren’t always neutral. Many questions make conversations worse.”Is your mother coming over for dinner again?” or “Did you call Jim in accounting about this?” can cause trouble if the other person thinks there’s a criticism behind the query.
The more you query simply to indulge your personal cravings to get an answer, to hammer home a point, or to satisfy a narrow personal interest, the more your questions are likely to stifle dialogue. It’s better to focus on what you can learn from or about another person and to ask questions that reflect a broad curiosity.
Bad habit #5: Meddling. Our digital devices allow us to have far too many unnecessary conversations and get our hands (and thumbs) on too many irrelevant issues. That’s why smart communicators, like smart doctors, have a good triage system.
Put each decision or action into a category—Now, Delay or Avoid—to focus on the most pressing issues, while delaying or ignoring less important matters.
Bad habit #6: Fighting with difficult people. Whether people are controlling, critical or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person tend to spark frequent confrontations—even though we’re unlikely to influence these people.
It’s time to quit trying.
Giving up your desire to ‘win’ by imposing your will on the other person can realistically and consistently improve your communication with difficult people. When talking to such people, he says, have modest expectations, avoid tangents and stay focused on your end goal.
Bad habit #7: Overreacting. Excessive force frequently causes a destructive cycle—attack, retaliation, escalated attack and escalated retaliation.
Exercising restraint during a contentious interaction is challenging, but try to apply the least amount of interpersonal force and intensity necessary to accomplish your objective.
When discussions become heated, stay serious and focused. Be the calm, controlled and stabilizing influence on the conversation.
Bottom line: Eliminating just one or two of these bad habits can dramatically improve your communication, help you set a better example for your employees, and strengthen your relationships at work and at home.