Communication gaps – the spaces between what you think you said and what the recipient actually heard – happen constantly. If your words and actions fail to convey your intended message, take that mistake as a warning. Realise that the true expression of your message depends not only on what you say but also on how you say it and how you present yourself.

Try to avoid these 9 common, big communication mistakes and, if you stumble, here’s how to correct them:

Mistake 1: Not Being on Your A-Game

Being your best possible self-requires a positive mindset and a can-do attitude. When things outside your control go wrong, regulate your response. Don’t let your emotions control you.

Getting angry in traffic or yelling at a classmate never improves anything. Take a breath when something goes awry. Work calmly toward a solution and offer to help. Don’t cast blame. Understand other people’s viewpoints and listen to what they say.

Mistake 2: Speaking Without Thinking

“Think before you speak. This is such a basic concept, yet it is so hard to put into practice.”

When someone says or does something you don’t like, instead of quickly shooting off a negative response, think before you speak. Consider their perspectives and agendas and the timing of your response. Be clear about the context of the statement and the reasons for the other person’s behaviour. Frame your response to move forward with the conversation.

Mistake 3: Not Knowing Your Personal Brand

“If you don’t think you have a brand, you’re wrong.”

Everything you say and do, including the emails you write and the compliments you offer, contributes to your image or personal brand. Stay away from negative chatter and gossip and support your brand with consistent communication, appearance, and attitude. Adapt your brand to fit into your setting, yet remain authentic to yourself. For instance, select your clothing to support the image you’d like to project.

Mistake 4: Not Managing Perceptions

“Communication is not how and what we say; it is how we are heard.”

How you project yourself affects how others interpret your words. To sharpen your self-perception, ask people you trust for objective feedback. Simple adjustments in looks, body language and mannerisms can improve your communication. Take these steps:

  • Focus on your conversational partner, remain positive, ask questions and listen carefully. Avoid talking just about yourself.
  • Use “me vs. you” language. In any kind of relationship, you work together, not against each other.
  • Make eye contact, use a firm handshake, stand tall with your head up and smile.
  • Dress appropriately for every occasion. Don’t compromise your appearance to be more comfortable.
Mistake 5: Not Making Appropriate Small Talk

Small talk is a good vehicle for establishing connections and finding mutual ground. Encourage people to open up. Ask open-ended questions and Bring up topics people find interesting, like hobbies, sports, family, and movies. Avoid politics, religion, and gossip. Don’t reveal too many personal details, interrupt, complain or appear distracted.

Two woman making small talk
Learn how to make small talk.
Mistake 6: Not Managing Your Social Networking

“It is hard to have a good channel of communication when people perceive you differently from how you perceive yourself.”

Social media boost your brand, but they can fuel your downfall if the wrong people see an unseemly post or picture. Whatever you put online stays there forever.

As a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company commented, “I can’t believe how many college students put inappropriate photos of themselves online. Do they not realise that recruiters look up everything?” To capitalize on the power of social media, know what each site does best.

LinkedIn is for business networking. Keep your profile current and professional. Join groups that relate to your position and industry. Post infrequently to share material others in your field will find helpful.

To use Facebook, maintain one personal page and one professional page. Use privacy settings to ensure that the appropriate audience views your content. Once you put something online, people will find it. Never post negative comments about work. Don’t overpost.

YouTube is the perfect vehicle for do-it-yourself videos and demos. And, used correctly, Twitter can build your reputation. Posting timely comments and clever insights can position you as a “thought leader.” Twitter also can expand your networks and display your personal brand.

Mistake 7: Making Assumptions

“We react to others because we have a preconceived idea of what they want based on previous experience and assumptions.”

People absorb and evaluate incoming information based on their prior experiences. However, assumptions and drawing conclusions that may be wrong can create problems. Note how your assumptions influence your communication. Understand which experiences or emotions drive you to react certain ways. Share the reasons for your viewpoints. Keep your mind open to alternative solutions and outcomes.

Mistake 8: Not Adapting to Different Communication Styles

Each person has a unique communication style. Some people are talkers; others prefer to listen. Some people are task-oriented; others focus on relationships. Understand how people communicate, and modify your style to align with them.

For example, while doing a group project if Girl A is a people person who loves to collaborate, enjoys her classmates and wants everyone to like her, bring out her best side by keeping her in the loop, asking for her ideas and communicating face-to-face.

Mistake 9: Not Communicating Value

Every action communicates your value and reinforces your personal brand. Certain behaviours boost your value:

  • Heed the details in your interactions and act as you say you will.
  • Do more than you have to do to solve a problem.
  • Make personal contact – like a phone call – instead of sending a text.
  • Be consistent, listen, learn and genuinely care.

Communication failures strike even the most intelligent, talented people, but you can fix them. Working on refining your communication skills will be rewarding in every aspect of your life and you’ll enjoy a more positive reputation with everyone you meet.

This article is based on the book You Said What?! by Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston.



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