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 just the opposite… bad communication?
Exploring both sides of the coin is beneficial when trying to become a more effective communicator. Yes, we can focus on incorporating useful suggestions to change our communication style, but it is equally important to become aware of some damaging behaviors we may be using from an ingrained default position without even being aware.
Research shows people who demonstrate some of the following behaviors can be considered by the majority as ineffective in their communication efforts.
· They communicate from a bullying standpoint through ridicule, scorn, threats and emotional outbursts.
I view this as the “Yosemite Sam” effect. These people have a low threshold for being able to tolerate anything outside their sphere of perceived control and an inability to manage their emotions. Emotional outbursts are off-putting to say the least. They make most people feel uncomfortable and put them in an offensive position before they can even get a word in. As the old saying goes, “if you can manage your emotions all is well, but when your emotions begin to manage you… watch out.” They come at communication from an ingrained belief that somehow views demeaning others either as a motivational tool or a way to absolve themselves from being accountable for their own self conduct. This behavior causes people on the receiving end to “check out.” Most people shut down in situations like this and communication is lost before it ever begins.
· They fail to listen.
This is a big one and unfortunately a common challenge for a great deal of people. Again, I lean on an old saying “we were given two ears, two eyes, and one mouth for a reason.” Yet, listening to others for some, can pose as a difficult task to achieve. The term “listening” conceptually is pretty broad, but listening to actually hear the other person becomes more specific. For example, you can listen to someone speak while typing on your computer, but I guarantee the person communicating will not feel “heard.” Listening involves more than just your ears. To actively listen a good communicator employs body posture, eyes, facial expressions, and at times, even voice at the end to communicate understanding.
· They have a habit of interrupting.
Interrupting is another huge area that fosters poor communication, yet something I see quite a few people do without even being aware they are doing it. I have actually observed conversations where a person was interrupting repeatedly throughout the conversation, yet when following up with that same person afterwards they were unaware of their interruptions and in some cases actually surprised by my feedback. This is a prime example of that “default position” I refer to. As human beings, we develop certain ways of “being” in the world. We establish behaviors, beliefs and perceptions that become so imbedded in our personality that they are habitual and occur outside our sphere of active awareness… hence activating our “default position.”
Regardless of whether we think we can multi-task effectively, we can’t when it comes to communication. When we go to a place of composing a response or we are so overwhelmed by our urge to interject our thoughts in the middle of someone else’s dialogue, we are actually no longer listening. Interrupting serves a double edged negative sword as it not only ceases our ability to listen, but it also disconnects us from the other person by making them feel un-heard, disrespected, devalued, demeaned and the list goes on.
· They find fault with what others bring to the conversation more often than not.
Communication is really a fine art. It is more complex than most of us realize or even stop to consider. I believe this is the case because it is something we all do daily in one form or another, so as a commonly engaged in behavior, it is at risk to become problematic over time. Thus enters… finding fault. Yet another poor communication skill, finding fault regularly shows up in conversations either intentionally or unintentionally. In order for dialogue to be productive, all present and engaged in the process need to feel respected and valued. They also need to have trust. If the majority of the time, you are finding fault with what is being presented, you need to go back to the proverbial drawing board and reassess your desired outcomes. Continually finding fault only serves to douse the flames of creative thought and destroy the potential for nurturing the essential ingredients of a robust dialogue like innovation, strategizing, visioning, or problem solving to name a few.
· They are viewed as unapproachable by others.
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 the work of Daniel Siegel, he points to the importance of connection throughout most of his literature. Years ago I attended a conference with Dan Siegel. One of the statements he made that I never forgot, he said “relationships are the defining feature that makes us human.” So, if you have received feedback that you are acting in ways that convey a message to others that you are unapproachable, stop and give it some thought. If you are perceived as unapproachable, barriers go up and you sabotage communication efforts before they even find a starting point.
It really is all up to you, make the choice to live your life by design, not default! Take charge of your destiny and re-design a stellar Blueprint for Success!