If you want to improve your communication skills, you need to stop doing these 9 things

Communication is the key to success in this life.

After all, if humans weren’t the communicators we are, we would still be running from lions somewhere on the African savanna.

Instead, we’re putting bootprints on the moon, and it’s all because we can communicate big ideas to each other in a way no other animal can.

So if you want to go far, both in your professional and personal life, you need to be able to communicate effectively with others.

But we aren’t all born with a natural talent for communication. And sometimes, communicating effectively is as much about the things you don’t say and do as it is about the things you do.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the things you need to stop doing if you want to communicate effectively with others.

1) Being vague

Ultimately, communicating effectively with other people is all about being clear. That means you need to put everything as clearly and simply as you can while still getting your point across.

As the old saying goes, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Often, that means getting straight to the point – especially in a business context.

And whether at work or in your personal relationships, it means being clear.

Avoid vague terms such as, “We’ll be ready around 4,” or, “I think it was a few months ago.”

Using terms like this makes you seem unsure of what you are saying and will harm your credibility. That will only harm your communication skills, too.

Instead, put things clearly and concisely so that other people know exactly what you’re saying without getting lost in unnecessary words. Sometimes, it’s better to be wrong than to be vague.

2) Being unprepared

You can avoid a lot of vagueness in your speech by preparing what you want to say.

In a business context, this means having a firm grasp of the facts. If you’re presenting a project or even just attending a meeting, do your research first to figure out what you want to say and make sure that your facts are correct.

Where possible, come to work with names, dates, and statistics that will help get your point across.

This will make anything you say much more forceful, as well as being more clear to others.

Entrepreneur Deep Patel recommends mimicking lawyers by speaking extemporaneously. That means writing down what you intend to say, but not memorizing it word for word.

“This method of communicating allows the lawyers presenting a case to cover all of the necessary points, while giving them flexibility as to how to communicate based on audience reaction or questions,” Patel writes.

3) Saying too much

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being trapped in the company of a person who can’t seem to stop talking.

This is often a habit of people who are nervous. In an attempt to cover up their nervousness, they keep talking on and on, not trusting their audience to understand what they are saying.

Being concise is a way to respect the time of the people you are talking to. It is also a way to make sure they remember what you said, since there are fewer words to concentrate on.

Learning how to speak clearly and concisely can be a tricky skill to master. You can start by getting rid of unnecessary words and digressions and focusing only on what you want to say.

4) Ignoring body language

There have been countless studies done on the importance of body language.

“When it comes to communication, how you say something matters just as much as what you say,” says family therapist Emily Cook.

She also points to some of the major body language signals you should know if you want to communicate effectively:

  • make eye contact
  • keep a relaxed expression
  • smile
  • avoid fidgeting
  • avoid crossing your arms

These may sound like simple things, but they can make a huge difference in the way your words are perceived by others, and can help you communicate much more effectively without saying a thing.

5) Not thinking about your tone

Tone is another way that we say a lot without speaking a word.

You can use tone to emphasize an important point you want to make, or you can completely undermine what you’re trying to say by using the wrong tone.

For example, sounding angry, even if you’re not, will put other people on the defensive. Instead of looking for ways to agree with you, they may look for ways you are wrong.

Likewise, sounding unsure of yourself will make others doubt you.

Tone applies to the sound of your voice, but it can also apply to the way you communicate in writing. The words you choose all convey a particular tone, so think carefully about the choices you make in your communication and ask yourself how your writing comes off to other people.

6) Not listening

pic1935 If you want to improve your communication skills, you need to stop doing these 9 things

Nobody likes it when it seems somebody is not listening to them. Remember, communication is always a two-way street, and if it seems like you are just trying to lecture someone without listening to anything they have to say, they are likely to switch off.

Writing for Inc.com, Geoffrey James recommends silencing your “monkey mind.”

This is the noisy part of your brain that jumps from one thought to another. So one minute, you might be thinking about what the person opposite you is saying, and the next, thinking about their shoes or a stain on the ceiling.

Instead, James suggests acknowledging what you’ve heard and thinking before you respond. This not only allows you to focus on what the other person is saying, but it also demonstrates to them that you are really listening.

Because we want to communicate clearly with people, you need to understand where they are coming from. And it’s not enough just to listen to someone. You also need them to know that you are listening if you want to communicate effectively.

7) Thinking only of yourself

Whenever we speak, whether at work, at home, or out with our friends, we have a particular goal in mind.

Maybe it’s to persuade a client to buy a product. Maybe it’s to make our friends laugh. Maybe it’s to show our partner that we care about them.

But whatever we are saying and whoever we are talking to, it’s important to understand that other people have their own feelings that are just as important as our own.

This involves building your emotional intelligence and practicing empathy.

“If you’re aware of your own emotions and the behaviors they trigger, you can begin to manage these emotions and behaviors,” says Margaret Andrews, who teaches emotional intelligence for leaders at Harvard.

Basically, if you want to communicate effectively with other people, you need to understand them as individuals.

Everyone has their own thoughts, desires, and preferences, and when you understand those, you’ll find it much easier to communicate with them.

8) Interrupting

This one is just basic manners. With that said, it’s surprising how many people seem to forget it.

Interrupting people, whether at work or in a social situation, is a big no-no, and for good reason.

When you interrupt someone, you demonstrate that you are not really listening to them.

It shows that instead of paying attention to what they are saying, you’re busy thinking your own thoughts. It also suggests that you think your thoughts are much more important than those of everyone else, and so you have a right to interrupt.

Don’t do that.

Instead, wait for someone to make their point. Whether you agree or not, it shows respect to other people if you hear them out first before saying what you want to say.

9) Checking your phone

This is a modern curse that is becoming more and more of an issue.

Our phones are designed to be addictive and to keep us checking our notifications as often as possible. But when you are having a conversation with someone face-to-face, it’s important to give them your undivided attention.

That means not checking your phone while you are talking to them. It may even mean putting your phone on silent so that you’re not distracted.

Not only does it show respect to the other person, but it also allows you to listen more effectively, since you can give them your full attention. And that is one of the keys to communicating easily with others.

Improving communication

Whether it’s business, romance, or your social life, there’s hardly any area of life that can’t be improved by learning to communicate better.

So drop these bad habits to improve your communication skills. You’ll notice the difference in how people talk to you right away.

Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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