Browse a bunch of job ads and at some point, you will come across the requirement for applicants to display “excellent communication skills”.
From the time we are born, we embark on a program of learning how to speak, listen, read and write.
You would therefore expect all of us to be accomplished communicators by the time we enter the workplace.
The problem is some of us pick up habits along the way that prevent basic communication skills from becoming “good”, “very good” or even “excellent”.
It is the very reason why job ads continue to draw attention to a set of skills that are critical for virtually any task we undertake in the workplace.
Those who have well-developed communication skills often thrive in their careers while those who do not frequently face more challenges.
There are myriad barriers to effective communication.
One of the worst things you can do is interrupt another person when you are convinced you know what they are going to say.
Apart from being rude, when we interrupt we tend to change the direction of a conversation and lose out on some of what was going to be conveyed.
Another common communication flaw is “tuning out” or “switching off” in meetings. Colleagues will notice your lack of engagement and question your commitment to them and your job.
A major communication weak spot in most workplaces is our increased use of phubbing, the term used to describe phone snubbing.
It is a non-verbal insult that occurs when, deep in a face-to-face conversation with a colleague, your eyes drop unceremoniously to your phone to check out the message that has just lit up the screen.
Not only is phubbing disrespectful but it disrupts the flow of information and impedes the communication process.
A less common but still significant communication issue is when we jump in too early to offer a solution despite not yet fully appreciating the problem.
Our failure to listen before responding is often a symptom of the fast-paced reality of many workplaces.
And if there is one thing that frustrates many in the workplace, it is their colleagues’ incessant use of filler words.
Using expressions like “ah”, “um”, “er”, “you know”, “okay”, “so” and “like” repeatedly detracts from your communication and invariably leads to the disengagement of others.
Other communication foibles include speaking without thinking, careless use of words, compliments that end up being insults, inappropriate and excessive questioning, facial expressions and non-verbal body language that are inconsistent with what has been said, rambling on too much and smugness.
If you are like most of us, you will be guilty as charged with several of these communication imperfections.
Learning to break the habit
Breaking a bad habit is not always easy.
So channel just a little bit of energy into removing one or two of your communication imperfections, which will automatically turn you into a better communicator.