In the last article we discussed some of the positive characteristics that lead to effective communication, but what about recognizing behaviors in ourselves that lead to the opposite … miscommunication?
Exploring both sides of the coin is beneficial when it comes to becoming a more effective communicator. Yes, we can focus on incorporating helpful suggestions to change our communication style, but it is equally important to become aware of some harmful behaviors that we may be using from an ingrained default position without even realizing it.
Research shows that people who display some of the following behaviors can be viewed by most as ineffective in their communication efforts.
· They communicate from the point of view of intimidation through ridicule, contempt, threats and emotional outbursts.
I see this as the “Yosemite Sam” effect. These people have a low threshold for being able to tolerate anything outside of their perceived sphere of control and an inability to manage their emotions. Emotional outbursts are unpleasant to say the least. They make most people uncomfortable and put them in an offensive position before they can even utter a word. As the old saying goes, “if you can control your emotions, everything is fine, but when your emotions start to control you … be careful.” They come to the communication of an ingrained belief that somehow you see demeaning others as a motivational tool or a way to refrain from being responsible for your own behavior. This behavior causes people on the receiving end to “retreat.” Most people shut down in situations like this and communication is lost before it starts.
· Do not listen.
This is a huge challenge, and sadly a common challenge for a large number of people. Again, I lean on an old saying “we got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth for a reason.” However, for some, listening to others can pose a difficult task to accomplish. The term “listening” is conceptually broad enough, but listening really listen the other person becomes more specific. For example, you may hear someone speak while typing on your computer, but I guarantee that the person communicating will not feel “heard.” Listening involves more than just your ears. Actively listening to the body posture, eyes, facial expressions of a good communicator’s employees, and sometimes even the voice at the end to communicate understanding.
· They have a habit of interrupting.
Disruption is another big area that encourages miscommunication, yet it is something that I see many people doing without even realizing that they are doing it. In fact, I have observed conversations where one person repeatedly interrupted throughout the conversation, however when I followed up with that same person afterwards, they were unaware of their interruptions and in some cases they were really surprised by my comments. . This is an excellent example of that “default position” I mean. As human beings, we develop certain ways of “being” in the world. We establish behaviors, beliefs and perceptions that are so ingrained in our personality that they are habitual and occur outside of our sphere of active consciousness … thus activating our “predetermined position.”
Regardless of whether we think we can multitask effectively, we can’t when it comes to communication. When we go to a place to compose a response or are so overwhelmed by our urge to interject our thoughts in the middle of someone else’s dialogue, we are not really listening anymore. Interrupting serves as a double-edged negative sword, as it not only ceases our ability to listen, it also disconnects us from the other person making them feel ignored, disrespected, devalued, degraded and the list goes on.
· Most of the time they find fault with what others bring to the conversation.
Communication is really an art. It is more complex than most of us believe or even stop to consider. I think this is the case because it is something we all do on a daily basis in one form or another, so as a commonly involved behavior it runs the risk of becoming problematic over time. So it enters … finding fault. Yet another poor communication skill, fault finding regularly pops up in conversations, whether intentionally or not. For the dialogue to be productive, everyone present and engaged in the process must feel respected and valued. They also need to be confident. If most of the time, you find fault with what is presented, you should go back to the proverbial drawing board and reevaluate your desired results. Continually finding fault only serves to quench the flames of creative thinking and destroy the potential to nurture the essential ingredients of strong dialogue like innovation, strategizing, vision, or problem solving, to name a few.
· Others consider them inaccessible.
Let’s face it, people like to connect. We are social beings and establishing a sense of connection is part of our biological coding. If you read Daniel Siegel’s work, he points out the importance of connection in most of his literature. Years ago I attended a conference with Dan Siegel. One of the statements he made that I never forgot said that “relationships are the defining characteristic that makes us human.” So if you’ve received feedback that you are acting in a way that conveys a message to others that you are unapproachable, stop and think a bit. If you are perceived as unapproachable, barriers are raised and you sabotage communication efforts before they find a starting point.
It really is all up to you, choose to live your life by design, not by default. Take charge of your destiny and redesign a stellar plan for success!