16 Effective Ways To Break Bad Communication Habits
Members of the Forbes Coaches Council offered 16 simple and effective methods for breaking bad communication habits and building better ones.
Regardless of industry, a leader’s role often involves managing the flow of information between team members, departments and other company stakeholders. That’s why it’s critical for all professionals to practice good communication habits and ensure that all involved parties are receiving messages loud and clear.
But even the best of us sometimes slip up and don’t communicate as well as we could. We interrupt others during meetings; we send typo-riddled emails from our smartphones; we get defensive and react instead of truly listening and processing the words we hear.
- Don’t Filter, Just Listen
At work, we screen information at lightning speed and focus on what is most important. However, this skill is detrimental to effectively communicating with others. When listening, turn off the filter in your head that says, “Not important right now,” and instead reserve your judgment and ask questions to clarify. Breaking this habit will enable you to connect and actually get more done. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
- Put The Phone Away
We’re all wired these days to see our latest emails and notifications from social media outlets. However, continually checking these when we are in the company of others can communicate that you’re not tuned in, and can be perceived as rude. When I am with people, my phone is put away where I can’t see it, the ringer is off, and notifications are off. - Rebecca Bosl, Dream Life Team
- Stop Interrupting Others
If you have a habit of interrupting, challenge yourself to count to five before responding. This discipline will ensure that the other person has finished relaying their thoughts before you begin sharing yours. It also has the added benefit of giving the impression that you’re carefully reflecting on what they just said. - Shawn Kent Hayashi, The Professional Development Group LLC
- Practice Periods Of Unavailability
One of our worst communication habits happens to appear as a strength. The majority of us are constantly connected to the world through an array of devices, so we never have down time to stop giving and receiving communication unless we are intentional about it. Carve out periods during your day when the technology is turned off or removed from your presence, and relearn how to communicate! - Billy Williams, Archegos
- Ask And Learn What Works Best
Start by asking what works best. Every organization, department, team, and individual has practices that work well. Avoid making assumptions or establishing what worked for you in the past from the start. It is as simple as asking, “If I need to get a critical message across, what is most effective?” Learn what works, and improve what doesn’t over time. - Alan Trivedi, Trivedi Coaching & Consulting Group
- Proofread Anything Sent From Your Phone
Short, terse and often not-well-thought-out emails sent via your smartphone can damage communication because it invites the impulsive and emotional. I see executives and career professionals make some egregious communication errors on this platform. Any worthy communication that deserves thought should be read and reread or you risk a problem message that often reads “Sent From My iPhone” or the like! - John O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
- Pick Up The Phone
One of the leading causes of misunderstandings is a lack of effective communication. Technology has us hiding behind keyboards and smartphone screens as texting has become the most widely used avenue of communication. Nothing beats picking up the phone to quickly communicate what’s needed. Instead of sending an emoji, hit the call button and allow someone to hear your smile in your voice. - Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.
- Confirm Your Understanding Of Problems Before Trying To Solve Them
Most of us have been rewarded in school and at work for quick solutions and being right, so we tend to jump to an answer before better knowing the situation. Ask questions to be sure you’re getting to the real problem, and then listen with curiosity to get to the root cause. For example: “What is the real issue we need to tackle?” or, “What else is going on that we haven’t yet explored?” Bonnie Davis, Destination Up
- Practice Proactive Communication With The 80/20 Rule
Powerful communication is only 20% about making yourself understood and 80% about genuinely and proactively trying to understand your counterpart. When trying to understand, just listening is not enough. Being proactive means asking questions. And contrary to popular belief, it is often perfectly appropriate to interrupt as long as it is simply to verify that you are understanding correctly. - Mehrdad Moayedzadeh, Life Is Important
- Take Responsibility For Your Message Delivery
The person trying to communicate a message should take responsibility for it getting delivered correctly. It is amazing how much more effective we communicate once we take responsibility for ensuring that things are not misunderstood. You get rid of statements such as, “I told you XYZ, you must have not heard me.” Really effective professional speakers and communicators always take responsibility. - Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc.
- Remove The ‘Junk’ From Your Conversations
Many of us are guilty of allowing “filler” words and phrases to crowd our conversations. They squeeze out the value of what we are trying to express. Examples include, “Yes, yes” or “I know” or “You know…” Such phrases are crutches: We rely on them when our mouths are moving faster than our brains. Slow down to consider what to say before you say it, then such filler words begin to disappear. - Leila Bulling Towne, The Bulling Towne Group, LLC
- Check Your Grammar And Professionalism
In written communication, it is important to train ourselves to avoid allowing the influence of texting to interfere with professional business communication. It’s tempting to use abbreviations and acronyms because they are faster. However, it is important to remember in effective business communication, we maximize our ability to be understood and reach larger audiences by using proper grammar. - Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner LLC
- Try Talking Less
Overtalking leads to under-listening, and listening is the greatest communication skill. A habit that challenges listening comes from the desire to advocate one’s own position rather than be curious and inquire about the other person’s interest, concerns, aspirations and goals. Advocating leads to telling, directing, instructing and lecturing with the result of turning off others from listening! - Valerio Pascotto, IGEOS
- Watch Your Nonverbal ‘Approachability’ Cues
A bad habit related to communication we can fall into is to send signals not to approach us. A few examples: no eye contact when in the presence of others, being short and abrupt when answering open-ended questions, keeping your office door closed and having a negative disposition. To have effective communication, we need to make ourselves available, be approachable, and then be present when we listen. - Randy Goruk, The Randall Wade Group, LLC
- Keep Your Opinions To Yourself (Unless Asked)
Don’t give your opinion when it’s not required or hasn’t been asked for. Being intentional about listening to the other person and recognizing that their opinions matter will help curtail this habit. How do you feel when people give unsolicited opinions? Adapt your communication to be more respectful to others. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
- Get Out Of Your Reactive State Before Responding
People often communicate from a reactive state: reacting to a problem, something they don’t like, something they heard etc., which creates an environment for more confusion, chaos, and more of what’s not wanted. Practice refraining from communicating immediately. Take a walk, clear your head, breathe deeply, and feel better, then communicate from a clearer, more intentional space. - Christine Meyer, Christine Meyer Coaching
First published on forbes.com August 29, 2017