None of us are without bad communication habits. Since these habits are easier caught than taught, those lucky individuals who happen to have grown up around parents who were excellent interpersonal communicators do have a leg up on the rest of us. The majority of us, however, have some serious bad habits that get in the way of effective communication. Here are some of the most common:
Casual Bad Communication Habits
- Trying to multi-task: Recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is largely a myth. There are very few tasks that can actually be done effectively simultaneously. Communication isn’t one of them. Trying to multi-task while communicating, especially around anything of significance, is a bad idea. At best you come off to the other person as a little rude, since they are not important enough for you to stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. At worst you completely handle the situation poorly because you weren’t giving it sufficient bandwidth to navigate it well.
- Using the Wrong Medium: Technology is great…sometimes. Texting or emailing are fantastic ways to confer benign information or share funny memes. They are a terrible form of communication for any discussion that has emotional significance for either party. Using them when you should be having a phone conversation, or better yet an in-person chat, is a big failure in communication.
- Inopportune timing: When a subject is emotionally charged we can feel an internal pressure to have the conversation right now. Now is not always the best time. Sometimes addressing something on the spot is the best choice. Often giving ourself space to process the situation and maybe seek counsel are a better idea . Almost always avoiding these conversations when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired is advised. This typically means not having them after 9 pm or before 7 am.
- Failing to Prepare for Success: Failure to prepare is preparing for failure. When we don’t take the time to prepare for a conversation (covered more later) we are setting it up for disaster.
- Not Getting Counsel: God has placed people in our life and in the body that have experience and wisdom we can benefit from. If we don’t avail ourselves of that, we are selling ourselves and the conversation we need to have, short.
- Failure to Pray: It should be a no brainer to invite the God of the universe, by His Spirit, to join the conversation. He offers to come alongside us, helping us see things through his lens and empowering us to show up beyond ourselves. When we get caught up in the moment and forget to ask him into our conversation, it hinders us.
- Poor Body Language: Depending on the study you read, half to three quarters of our message is carried through non-verbal communication. This includes our tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, mannerisms, and body posture. Most of us have some bad body language habits that will get in the way of good communication if we are not mindful of them.
- Triangulation: This fancy term describes when I have a problem with Bill, but I go to Bob to vent about the issue instead of going to Bill to have a conversation. It’s also when Bob listens to me vent about my situation with Bill and doesn’t direct me towards Bill. Sometimes I actually want Bob to do something about the situation with Bill so I don’t have to. Triangulation may or may not involve gossip, but it’s unhelpful either way. It’s different than gaining counsel, because good counsel is about figuring out the best way to engage Bill, not avoid doing so.
- Covert Messages & Mind Reading: Do you ever get the feeling someone is hinting around at something without actually coming out and saying it? We call these covert messages (vs overt), and they are super unhealthy forms of communication. They expect the other person to read your mind, instead of taking responsibility for clearly communicating your wishes, wants, or desires in a situation.
- Failure to Give Space: Related to inopportune timing, sometimes we don’t give others the space they need to be able to engage a conversation in a healthy way. We can also be guilty of not giving ourself the space we need to show up well.
- Confusing Understanding and Agreement: Understanding and agreement are two different things. At times we can confuse the two. We can be so convinced of the logic of our stance on something we are sure that if the other person doesn’t agree with us they must not understand us. In reality, it is possible for a reasonable, rational, and decent human being to both understand our point of view and disagree with us (feel or think differently).
- Using Inflammatory Words/Phrases: There is always more than one way to communicate an idea. Using words or phrases that are emotionally loaded to convey your thoughts/feelings only serves to break down communication (examples: always, never, stupid, crazy, nuts, lazy, don’t care, irrational, illogical, waste of time, etc.).