If asked to give examples of instances whereby you displayed excellent communication skills, you could reel off a couple: from answering difficult interview questions with confidence, and delivering excellent speeches or presentations, to constructing persuasive emails/letters/proposals at work.
And you'd be right. In those situations, good communication skills led to the desired results.
Nonetheless, we've all veered off the straight and narrow path to good communication. Some common communication faux pas include these eight bad communication habits which we should break because they negate perceptions of our professionalism.
But are you aware of the communication mishaps which slowly undermine your career, or as an entrepreneur, limit your business growth? They could be insidious and unless pointed out by trusted colleagues/business partners so that you could rectify them, they'll cost you promotions or valuable opportunities.
Note that you're unknowingly ruining your career or your business by:
1) Not prioritising active listening
We all know that good listening skills are essential at work. Active listening communicates a sense of worth. We all crave attention. Therefore, when we believe that we're listened to, we become more convinced that our contributions are appreciated. This in turn, increases our discretionary efforts, leading to increased engagement. Employee engagement, as has been reported, leads to increased productivity as explained in the short video below.
But listening must be done the right way. Researchers revealed an interesting take on the art of listening in an article posted on the Harvard Business Review website. They determined that simply listening in silence, only to regurgitate what was said, does not constitute good listening. Instead, listening and asking meaningful questions promote insight. There's also good advice given on how to engage with the speaker and explanations about how the different levels of listening should be handled.
So if you're not actively listening to your company when management articulates what is expected from you in the long-term, you're doing yourself a disservice. Don't be surprised when your boss doesn't recommend you for plump assignments or when you're not singled out for promotions.
As an entrepreneur, active listening will help you to formulate strategies and provide exceptional customer services, leading to increased sales. Not prioritising this skill will be detrimental to your business, especially as a startup. Not only will you need to rally your team to achieve a common goal, but valuable insights will be stifled if team members feel unappreciated because you don't truly listen to them. This fact will become evident when you fail to address lingering concerns. Eventually, they would stop caring altogether and your business will suffer from the significant brain drain.
Remember that hearing is not the same thing as listening.
2) Not handling constructive feedback effectively
In a post on feedback, I declared that for feedback to be effective, it had to be timely and factual. I also distinguished between two groups of people who don't give feedback. In the first group are the 'Ostrich' people - these are folks who don't want to be the bearers of bad news, thus they avoid giving unfavourable feedback. In the second camp, the 'What's-In-It-For-Me' people feel entitled and don't give feedback unless they have a vested interest in the recipients' circumstances. Professionals in both groups automatically sabotage their careers because their behaviours cause others to view them as untrustworthy, unreliable and incompetent.
Feedback, as we all know, is crucial for the effectiveness of people and by extension, processes. For the organisational wheel to function properly, feedback must be consistently provided. Still, when it comes to constructive feedback, we don't relish our mistakes being highlighted.
Now you may decide that it's easier to give feedback than to receive it. But both ways can be difficult to handle. For example, think about how awkward it will be to tell your boss that his error cost your company millions. Now think about how uncomfortable he'll feel listening to you suggest steps he could take to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
Did you cringe?
No, constructive feedback is not always pleasant but it is necessary.
So why do we loathe feedback?
Some research suggests that the fear of giving or receiving feedback may be all in our heads; that there is a psychological component to this fear. Backed by science, the article explains that we tend to avoid constructive feedback because of a fight-or-flight bias (caused by hormones), even though we're not in any physical danger. We also remember criticisms more sharply. Suggestions given to overcome this fear of feedback are changing mindsets and altering behaviours.
As a professional or business owner, avoiding 'harsh' feedback does you no good. Problems cannot be wished away, nor can mistakes be undone. As long as you're convinced of the credibility of the person giving the constructive feedback, you should have faith that information given is in your best interest, and should at least consider reasonable advice.
What should be ignored are personal attacks or groundless criticisms which neither address the problems nor offer useful solutions.
To accelerate your professional development, include active listening in your communication arsenal and readily give/accept constructive feedback.
People who matter at work and in your business circles will notice the change when you become a more competent and grounded professional. As a result, confidence in your abilities will abound, leading to more opportunities.
And that's a promise.
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N.B - First, second and third images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Bplanet; via freedigitalphotos.net.