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5 Pitfalls to Avoid for Highly Effective Communication

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Effective communication is one of the most important leadership skills. And not only people who consider themselves leaders benefit from communicating effectively. If you want people to get you, understand what you’re going after and if you want to be influential at any level: effective communication is your friend.

But things can go wrong

You’ve been explaining your employee what’s wrong with the job he’s done for the last 10 minutes. You’ve laid quite some heart and soul into your message, but suddenly you realise he’s stopped listening to you all together.

Or your CEO really upset you last week by completely overreacting on a relatively small mistake, but you’ve decided not to tell her because you’re nervous about the possible effects if you do.

The importance of Effective Communication

Whether you’re communicating with an employee, a higher up or even your partner, a friend or your child, there’re those moments when you realise your message isn’t getting through.

Yaiks! If your message isn’t effective, you’re having less influence then you could have.

In my article on Speaking your Truth, I’ve talked about the necessity to connect to both yourself and the other person on a deeper level when you really want to make an impact.

But there’s more you can do – when you want your communication to be effective. In this article I’ll share 5 secrets to highly effective communication.

Pitfall #1: Attacking others (even if you don’t mean to)

People have the tendency to stop listening and start defending when they feel attacked. That’s probably just our lizard brain getting to work, but it’s remarkable to see that the impact of any message gets below zero when people start defending.
Instead, you could try giving your message from your own point of view. Let me clarify by giving a couple of examples:

– Instead of saying  ‘You should stop behaving like this’ you could say ‘It hurts my feelings when you do this’.

– Instead of saying  ‘You’re less effective when you give that message like that’ you could say (or I could say): ‘I have great experiences with doing it like this’. And I do!

The reason this works is twofold:

a) people generally don’t feel the need to defend themselves when you say something about yourself. This opens their mind to actually reflect on what you’re saying.

b) it prevents you from getting into a dispute about whether or not what you said is correct. Because you said something about yourself, it’s indisputable.

Pitfall #2. Going on and on (and on, and on)

This is one to tell myself, because I have the tendency to just keep going on, building endless sentences and adding still another important thing to my already jam packed message or explaining or fine-tuning it just a bit more.

It’s really good to use a full stop after the initial message is said. Give the other person the opportunity to ask a follow up question. If it turns out something wasn’t clear, you can always clarify it {full stop}

Because when you keep on trying to fine-tune and explain it even better, what actually happens, is that you’re making your message more complicated. And that’s not a good thing if you’re aiming for effective communication.

Pitfall #3: Repeating your message in different words

I see a lot of people reframing and repeating when they feel their message didn’t get across the first time.

It rarely works.

What you can try instead, is something I call ‘meta-communication’, which means that you comment on what’s going on in the conversation.

So if the other person isn’t responding to your important message, you could say something like
‘Hey, I see that you’re not really responding to what I just said, but I do think it’s very relevant. How come?’

Meta communication automatically takes the conversation to another level, where you can (re)connect and try again.

Pitfall #4: Neutralizing Your Message

When you stumble into this pitfall, you start with saying something pretty powerful. Then you get worried about the impact that might have. In a split second you decide to neutralize what you said by adding some ‘fluff’.

Fluff can come in the form of words. You might add something like ‘Really, I don’t mean to say you’re not doing it right, but…’ or ‘Not to be unkind or anything…’.

It also comes in the form of a change in your demeanor or gestures. This can be very subtle! Think things like adding a smile, shrugging or shrinking literally by bending a bit or leaning in.

This is NOT what influential people do. They stand for what they’ve said. They hear what the other person has to say in response and work from there.

Pitfall #5: Not saying it

The ultimate way to avoid effective communication! You would do this to spare someone’s feelings or to prevent someone from getting mad at you.

There’s just two things I would like to say in response to that:

If you don’t say it, you’ll show it. Tweet that!
And:

If you don’t say it, you’re withholding someone the opportunity to improve. Tweet that!

Really. If something is bad. Or it makes you mad. Or it disappoints you. Or it keeps you up at night. Or… {fill in the blanks} the only way to deal with it is to start a conversation about it.

There! Effective Communication for the taking.

You won’t be walking into these communication pitfalls any time soon!

To be honest, I’ve made all of them. And not only once.

But protecting yourself from these 5 pitfalls will improve your communication skills immediately and make you much more effective and influential.

The best way to really make these work for you, is practice and preparation. If you have a particular challenging conversation or an important presentation coming up, consider getting a communication quick fix. Together we can straighten things out and make sure you rock!

So tell me. What are your experiences with effective communication and these pitfalls? Share your views in the comment area below.

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