Few people admit to bad communication habits—much less habits that can cost them a job or a contract. Yet, we all see some of the following habits in people we interact with in the workplace on a daily basis. A few reminders can cut your risks that these habits don’t creep into your own business and personal relationships.
People who perturb their friends and colleagues alike may have one or all of these habits that are closely related. As if they’re unaware a conversation is in progress, they dash into the middle of it and figuratively yell “fire.” Do it once and people forgive, thinking you must have suddenly awakened from a bad dream. But do it repeatedly, and people see it as a downright disrespectful and annoying habit.
After someone tells a story—about horrible customer service, what their bright child accomplished, how hectic their workload has been, how well their team has performed on a key project––resist the urge to top it with your own story. You’ve just shoved them out of the spotlight to take your own bow.
You’ve heard people needless drop names of every famous colleague, friend, or client they have—all for no good reason in the context of the conversation. The name dropping communicates only a lack of confidence in their own abilities or credibility.
As I coach sales teams in redoing their presentations, the most frequent mistake I hear them make is this “all-about-us” opening: They start their client meeting or presentation with “let me tell you all about me, mine, our team and what we can do for you.” Wrong approach. Clients—as well as total strangers—want to know how you can help them before they care to know all about who you are.
You’ve heard people say they’re lactose intolerant. Likewise, some people are listening intolerant. All their communication is one-directional: output. They may ask questions, but their follow-up action demonstrates that they do not hear the input and feedback others give them.
You’ve probably been a victim of this person yourself: While shaking your hand or listening to you, they’re glancing over your shoulder to see if there’s someone more interesting in the room. They seem eager to escape at the first opportunity to go somewhere more intriguing. Giving someone the ‘glance over” communicates “you’re unimportant to me and actually blocking my way.”
The brush-off may be hard to describe, but you know it when you feel it. You send a pleasant email with a couple of questions; the response is curt and your questions go unanswered. Or you text a congratulatory message and get no response at all. Or you’re talking to someone at a networking event, and they nod a couple of times to your comments and turn to engage a passerby in conversation.
The brush-off typically leads to losing many more people than you intend. Rudeness almost always elicits revenge.
Non-responsiveness shows up in several forms: “Forgetting” to respond to an email. “Forgetting” to answer questions in an email or text. Nonparticipation in meetings. Refusal to cooperate with policy or procedures or any number of other passive-aggressive behaviors. When such behavior becomes habitual, before long you’re known around the workplace as a “difficult” or “toxic” coworker that others don’t readily want to have on their team or projects.
Habitually joining conference calls late, arriving to meetings late, sending reports late, responding to emails later than the cultural norm––all communicate to others either 1) that you consider your time much more valuable than theirs or 2) that you can’t handle your work responsibilities. Neither message communicates a positive picture.
Your colleagues expect you to be able to master your moods. They don’t want to deal with Delia the Dragon today and Sam the Lamb tomorrow. If they call a strategy meeting with a supplier, they need to know which personality will show up at the conference table. Habitual mood swings make communication—and business—risky.
Good communication is the shortest distance between you and new customers—and genuine friendships.
Learn more about how to improve your communication skills in Communicate with Confidence: How to Say it Right the First Time and Every Time. Find it at your preferred book seller.