Communication is vital in all that we do. However, your communication style may be the reason you find yourself in a career holding pattern. Whether you're working at a fast food restaurant or engineering the next scientific breakthrough, if you haven`t clued in to how others perceive your messages, you may be left wondering why you're at a standstill at work or keep getting passed over for the next promotion.
Just as each employee has her own unique style of communicating, she also possesses a unique way of interpreting other people's verbal and non-verbal communication styles. Effective communication is when the message that you send is received and interpreted exactly as you had intended it to. What are you communicating?
So many bad communication habits exist, so the trick is to figure out exactly which of them are going to stop your career in its tracks. The safest approach is to eliminate those habits pronto, but this can be easier said than done.
Poor communication habits include talking too much, not talking at all, using jargon, interrupting others, not maintaining eye contact, being indecisive, and using unnecessary filler language like um, uh-huh, and like.
Have you even stopped to think about how you communicate? If you haven't, make it a priority, because I can assure you everyone around you has! Think about poor communication faux pas that drive you crazy. Does it drive you nuts when somebody won't shut up or never directly answers your question? There are a lot of communication killers out there. Are you inadvertently commiting any of them?
I pride myself on being able to detect and match an employee’s communication style with performance issues. For instance, can you think of someone that you work with whose communication habits drive you crazy? What is it about their speech, content, or lack thereof that bothers you the most? Take a moment to think about how you perceive that person’s performance on the job. Is it favorable? Is it accurate?
I have drilled it into my clients as well as my children that what you say is just as important as how you say it. Effective communication is not just a catch phrase; it’s a real thing. If you really want to showcase the diamond in the rough that you are, you need to effectively communicate that. You need to showcase your potential through verbal and non-verbal cues. If you are salting your conversations with communication destroyers, you are doing yourself a great injustice.
What you say and how you say it is perceived by others through their own filters. No two people will interpret communications the same way, but poor communication skills and communication barriers will land squarely on everyone.
Here are just a few examples of behaviors that can hinder the communication process and be detrimental to your career.
1. Talking too much
Talking too much in a conversation suggests that you may be insecure and concerned that you won't be heard or acknowledged. Communication needs to be a two-way street. A common perception of overly talkative employees is that they're not succinct or confident enough to lead.
2. Avoiding eye contact
A common perception of employees who can't sustain eye contact is that they're either shy or not trustworthy. Of course, both of these behaviors can make a manager wonder if you lack leadership potential.
3. Overly using filler words
Using um or uh in your verbal communication suggests that you need time to think about what you want to say or do. It may make colleagues wonder if you're not quick enough to action.
Now that you know the consequences of bad communication habits, what can you do? One way to see how you come off to others is to ask colleagues they perceive your communication style and habits. Make sure they know that you won't take any critiques or constructive criticism personally or lash out at them.
You may already be aware of some of your habits, but I doubt that you are aware of them all. For instance, I have a friend who considers herself a great communicator. I have told her many times that when she speaks, she doesn't come up for air, and I can't get a word in to save my life! She adamantly denies this habit and claims that she "just has so much to say." Seriously?
So do yourself a favor and take whatever constructive and not-so-constructive critiques you may receive as tools to improve your communication skills. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain
Heidi Crux is the author of Public Speaking Simplified and Demystified: Communication Basics to Create Lasting Impressions. Heidi is a graduate of Dale Carnegie Training with over 25 years of experience both in and out of the boardroom teaching communication basics and management principles at the university level. As a trainer and coach Heidi conducts seminars and workshops upon request as well as public speaking engagements.