Conversations are a big part of our everyday lives. And whether you think of yourself as a world-class communicator or as someone who would rather just send an email than deal with face-to-face chatter, chances are you have at least a few bad communication habits that are driving people crazy.
Take a look at these eight common faux pas. Do you find yourself guilty of any of them? Well, it’s time for you to pull in the reins and stop — immediately.
1. Constantly interrupting.
We all have one thing in common when talking: We want to be listened to. So if you’re one of those people who tend to jump in and interrupt or — even worse — try to complete people’s sentences for them, you need to keep yourself in check.
You might think your constant interjections are a way to show your level of engagement. But they really just make you a conversational bulldozer.
Conversations deserve your full attention — and not just the halfhearted glances you’re willing to give them when you manage to rip your focus away from your iPhone screen.
Multitasking is a habit we’re likely all guilty of. But you need to be present for your conversations, no matter how menial or futile they may seem. That means no scrolling through your email or subconsciously thinking about your grocery list. Give your conversational partners the attention they deserve.
3. Using qualifiers.
“Don’t take this personally, but…”; “This might be a bad idea, but…”; or “I know what you’re thinking, but…”
Qualifiers exist for nearly every situation. But if you have the tendency to overuse them, you may be driving people up a wall. Why? Well, while these prefacing statements might seem like a great way to sugarcoat your sentences, they often just come off as condescending and unnecessary.
4. Equating your experiences.
Tell me if this situation sounds familiar: Someone is explaining a difficult problem he’s currently facing. You immediately retort with “I know exactly how you feel!” and then launch into your own long-winded tale of a time you experienced something that’s not even the least bit similar.
It’s important to remember that human experiences are all different. Your attempts to show empathy are admirable. But in most cases, you’re better off just listening and lending support.
We’ve all had to deal with those people who seem to just ramble on endlessly without a point — those people who appear to be talking simply because they like the sound of their own voices.
Needless to say, you don’t want to garner this reputation for yourself by constantly chiming in without a clear purpose. When you do decide to speak up, make sure that you’re prepared to be clear and concise. That’s the mark of a skilled communicator.
6. Avoiding direct contact.
I’m a big fan of the convenience of email and text messages. However, if you’ve ever dealt with someone who took the time to write out a lengthy message for something he or she could have easily explained to you in person in as few as two sentences, you know how frustrating that can be.
The never-ending assortment of communication tools available today has made us all a little less willing to actually talk to one another. So before hitting send on a message, ask yourself if this is something that could be done more efficiently in person or over the phone. You’ll save yourself (and the person on the receiving end!) a lot of headaches.
7. Waiting instead of listening.
As my mom always loves to tell me, “There’s a big difference between hearing and listening!” And when you’re having a conversation with someone, you should be actively listening.
That means you’re not just staying silent while thinking of your next point and waiting for your chance to talk again. Instead, you’re engaged in what that person is explaining. Trust me — people can tell when you’re tuning them out.
8. Using filler words.
“Hey, Jason. Umm … I’m just checking in on that, uhhh … report to see if you think you’ll, like, have that done by the end of the day.”
You knew this one had to make it onto the list somewhere. This is perhaps one of the toughest bad habits to break. We’re all so used to littering our sentences with these unnecessary words — it’s like a nervous tic for most of us. But make your best efforts to cut them out. Your conversations will be much cleaner and more polished.
Breaking a bad habit isn’t always easy. But channel your energy into removing these faux pas from your conversations and you’re sure to be a better communicator.