Over the years of doing what I do, poor communication remains top of our list as being a fundamental and enduring challenge in business.
It can erode relationships, culture, as well as invite mistakes, ambiguity, and cause strategy not to be properly implemented. The list could go on.
The reality is not surprising when you think about the lack of effective training in this area either at home, school or at work. It’s largely just expected to happen, a sort of acquired common sense. After all, we open our mouths, the words come out and people listen, don’t they? If only it was just that simple.
There are numerous reasons that our communication skills in their different forms whether it be verbal, written, or visual are not as well-honed as they could be.
One simple explanation I would propose is that on the whole, people love to talk and want to be heard, but are not as reciprocal when it comes to genuine listening. Why that is so is a complex mixture of factors, some societal, biological, and others which justifies the need for a more expansive conversation another time.
Top 15 Conversation Killers
What we will do is share our top fifteen conversation killers which provide an insight into some of the challenges of effective communication.
- Trumping. Trumping someone’s story. They have the floor with a story to tell and someone jumps in to tell their own story which they perceive is a better one.
- Interrupting. Cutting someone off mid-sentence and/or talking over the top of them.
- Pontificating. Talking as if there is no other explanation or choice other than the one this person is presenting. On a soap box with a loudspeaker, ‘you must listen to me’ type mentality.
- Naysayer. Criticises and always objects to everything; says things like ‘yes good idea but it will never work’. Can also be a bit of a ‘mud raker’, who likes to stay in the weeds.
- The monopoliser. Someone who wants to take charge of the conversation so you can hardly get a word or opinion in yourself.
- The ‘must be proven right’ person. The conversation will be great providing you agree with what I’m about to say!
- The labeller. Labels the person rather than the behaviour which means it gets personal rather than being a process or training improvement required.
- The negator. Negates any experience the person might have by saying things like ‘most people don’t think like that’ or ‘you are just not thinking straight’.
- Sentence finisher. You are halfway explaining yourself and someone jumps in to finish what they believe are or should be your words.
- Passive listening. These people pretend to listen but are only waiting for their turn to talk. Their minds are made up no matter what you say.
- Wrongly equating. These people say things like ‘I know how to feel, I had the same etc’ when it’s never the same and it’s demeaning to the other person to think you know exactly how they feel
- Diverter. This person will try and drag you off track to the main theme or question at hand to either bring up their own topic to talk about or simply that their mind rambles.
- Ambush strategy. Giving people some early compliments but ‘bang’ you are there to hit them with a whole load of complaints.
- Oversharing. Sometimes sharing too much information can get people to switch and get confused about what they should be focusing on.
- Assumption jumper. You are halfway through a thought or conversation and the other person makes a premature judgment of what you are thinking and/or the answer is. Let them finish and properly explain themselves.
In all honesty, if you can identify some of your own behaviour in one or more of these conversation killers, do not despair. We all share the same humanity and foibles in that respect which does however provide us with the same opportunity to identify and work on improvement.
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