Most of us do fairly well with communicating our needs and listening to others’ as well. As long as we aren’t tired or hungry… But there are some common communication mistakes that you may be making and not even realize it. Or you know someone making the mistakes and it is driving you insane, in which case, gently share this with them.
If you find yourself nodding while reading any of the five errors, don’t worry, you’ll do better next time now that you know!
1. Tuning out before someone has delivered their full message.
You know the drill. You start out fully engaged and hanging on every word your friend has to say about her new boyfriend. Of course you are excited that she is happy! But somewhere about the 17-minute mark, and the third time she has mentioned how much he just gets her, you start to lose focus.
You wonder what your other friends are doing. You wonder when you can talk about something else. Honestly, you wonder about anything besides how wonderful her new boyfriend is.
It is understandable really. Sometimes it is hard to focus when a topic has nothing to do with you. Especially when someone is seemingly on repeat. But to be a good communicator, you have to be, above all else, a good listener.
Instead of tuning out, get involved in the conversation! Employ some active listening. Ask her thoughtful questions about how they met. Provide motivational comments to help affirm her excitement. Being involved in the conversation keeps you listening.
During the conversation, listen for things that interest you that you can circle back to if you find yourself floundering. Or figure out how to gently change the subject to something related you can also contribute too.
You don’t want to make the person talking feel like you are not listening to something that they are beyond excited about. That is not just a bad listening habit, but a bad habit in general if you are trying to maintain your relationships. You’re better than that!
2. Not understanding subtle non-verbal cues.
To build on the above example, another common mistake you may be making is not picking up on other people’s non-verbal cues. Just as easily as your friend missed yours, you may miss others.
At times, you will be the excited person going on and on. When this occurs, you want to be courteous as you want others to be to you. For this to happen, you have to notice when someone is ready for a conversation to end.
Chances are they will not tell you that they are finished with the topic. People don’t like to feel they are being rude, and for many, the act of saying they are done with a conversation is seen as a rude gesture. But it does not have to get to that point. You will just have to read their non-verbal cues.
Before reading on, can you name five cues without peeking?
If not, no fear! We will go over a few now.
You will want to watch out for:
- Decreased eye contact.
- Fidgeting, playing with their phone/keys, checking the time.
- Lack of consistent feedback or questions.
- Expressionless faces.
- Crossed arms and/or positioning away from you.
They all mean you have lost the other half of your conversation and need to regroup!
3. Hearing things the way you want to hear them.
We are all guilty of this one. The mood we are in sets the tone for how we take everything that is said to us. The word “whatever” when we are in a good mood might be heard as passive, and indifferent to the topic. But when we hear “whatever” when we are already agitated, well this can become a straight up disaster.
All of the sudden that same word means the person doesn’t care about you or your feelings. And after all of the things you have done for them! How dare they say “whatever” to you!
You have now potentially set yourself off when the other person may have been just as passive as any other time they say it. You heard what you wanted to hear based on how you were feeling at the time.
We also do this to get our way. You may know your partner does not want to go to your favorite restaurant. Or know they are sick of eating at the same place, and would really love to go to their favorite place for once.
But we want those breadsticks dammit! So, we ignore the frustration in our partner’s voice when they say “wherever you want to go, honey”.
It is vital to learn to take our emotions and needs and wants out of the equation when we are listening to others. It is not that they don’t matter. The problem is that it plagues our ability to ensure we aren’t trampling someone else’s.
4. Unintentionally escalating touchy conversations.
Your partner had a bad day at work. They come home and want to vent. You interrupt them to ask what they want for dinner. They yell at you that you don’t care about their shit day and you both spend the whole evening avoiding further conversation out of annoyance. Sound familiar?
This is a tricky one. Everyone has bad days and finds it difficult at times to censor their communication so it doesn’t hurt others. And because we care about one another, we cut each other some slack for this.
What are you supposed to say when this happens? Nothing. Sometimes you do not need to say anything. You just listen and nod and fix them a drink.
Often, the secret to handling touchy conversations is to just let the upset party get out their message, respond minimally, and when they are 100% finished, move forward on safe ground.
In my opinion, the art of knowing when to say nothing has saved many, many relationships.
5. Contributing to finished conversations.
Yes, I am talking about you and your sending me messages that say “k” or just have an emoji. Stop it! It is unnecessary and it takes time that I can never get back.
This is one of those huge mistakes that people are making and not realizing. When a conversation, whether via voice or messaging, has run its course, please LET IT END. Not everything requires a response.
I get it because I am what many call a “talker”. I can talk about most anything for hours, so this is something I still struggle with at times. Especially when I am angry.
But knowing when enough has been said, and there is nothing meaningful or helpful or nice left you can contribute to a conversation, is something that will benefit you greatly. People notice and deeply appreciate people who are able to master this skill.
It doesn’t matter if it is a light or serious conversation, it always has to have an end. It is best to let that end be before anyone is just flat-out, completely over it.
I hope you made it through the list without hanging your head in shame!
If you want to take your communication up a notch, join my 30 day Communication Challenge! It is set up so that, in just minutes a day, you no longer have to struggle with knowing how to tackle any conversation. You will no longer have to deal with the misunderstandings or bickering! Check it out!