As kids, we played the game of telephone and thought it was funny to hear how the original message changed as it was passed along from one person to another. In business, no one laughs when communication fails, and projects and teams fall apart as a result. Direct and clear communication is the key to success.

Here are some of the common mistakes we make communicating internally with our colleagues and team as well as externally to clients.

1.  We make assumptions.

This is a big mistake that we are all guilty of at times. We assume we know the way someone else thinks or feels, and therefore, we don’t bother to fully explain or to ask questions to find out their opinion. We end up jumping to conclusions that can result in miscommunication, hurt feelings, and distrust. I have witnessed this contribute to lost sales and relationships.

2.  We don’t tailor our message to the recipient.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to communication. If you want your message to stick, it’s important understand what’s important to the individual you’re speaking with and tailor your message to that individual based on what you know about them. For instance, are they a direct no-nonsense type? Then make your message short and to the point. If they require justification and back up, be prepared with data and statistics to support your message.

3.  We don’t give timely responses or feedback.

It’s difficult for many of us to give feedback and constructive criticism so we often procrastinate and think that if we wait, it won’t be as difficult. Often, our procrastination makes it much more challenging when we finally get the courage to address issues. The feedback can also lose its impact if it’s given too late.

4.  We aren’t assertive.

We hesitate to use assertive communication either because we don’t understand its value or we don’t have the confidence to state our opinion or reaction to something. When we can clearly state how we feel or what we think about an issue, it avoids a lot of wasted time and emotional energy. With assertive communication, you are focused on your reaction only and not casting any judgment or blame with another party. This often diffuses any potential disagreements.

5.   We rely on others to deliver our message.

Here we go back to the telephone game. It’s common to use other people to convey our message.  We think this is the easier path and hope that the person we are directing the message to eventually receives it. Of course, just like the game, the message and intent are often misconstrued. Direct communication is the only way to ensure that your exact message is delivered to the correct person.

6.  We avoid confrontation.

Confrontation isn’t necessarily a bad thing when handled properly. Because many of us have negative feelings about confrontation, we try to avoid it at all costs. This usually results in longer range problems that can sometimes blow up unnecessarily.

7.  We don’t listen.

Listening is paramount for good communication. If we are talking just to hear ourselves talk, that’s a monologue not a conversation. Active listening requires a focused effort to hear what the other person is saying and perhaps what they are not saying.

8.  We don’t show respect for others.

Nothing ends a conversation faster than a disparaging comment. Show respect by listening and acknowledging other people’s opinions, even if you don’t share those opinions. Respect is the foundation for open and direct communication.

9.  We rely on email or tweets when face to face communication is appropriate.

There are some conversations that must be held face to face. Sending an email or tweet to someone in hopes that they will understand your message and intent is not productive and can often lead to misunderstanding.

10.  We don’t think before we respond.

How many times have we said something we later regretted because it was an emotional response and we didn’t give ourselves the time to calm down? Quick emotional reactions are usually a mistake especially in the business environment. The purpose of the communication gets lost and what we end up remembering are the emotional consequences.

I’m inviting YOU to communicate with me. Let me know if you have any more you’d like to add to the list or what your thoughts and comments are about the post.

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