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Top 3 Communication Mistakes

Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is to learn what not to do. Here, we'll examine 3 common communication mistakes.

Do you feel like no one understands what you’re saying? Does having a conversation make you feel nervous? When you do end up talking to someone, do you leave the discussion feeling more alone than you did before?  

Maybe you actively avoid talking to strangers at the grocery store. And you feel overwhelmed at the idea of having conversations with your family over the holidays.

I’m someone who used to avoid even talking with my neighbors. When I’d walk my dog, I would wear headphones so no one would stop me to talk. I thought I was awkward and bad at small talk. I even thought I was too good to have trivial conversations about the weather. I was the person who only wanted to have deep, complex conversations. Anything other than that wasn’t worth my time. I wasn’t the problem - everyone else just wasn’t able to engage how I wanted. 

But after taking The Macklin Method Workshop, I realized I had no idea how to actually communicate. And my own inability to communicate was holding me back from wanting to engage with other people. So I made up a story for myself about hating small talk. I didn’t actually hate small talk - I just didn’t know how to show up for this kind of conversation. And this made me feel inadequate.     

During this process, I started seeing every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new and form a connection with someone. And I discovered talking to someone about the weather is actually just as meaningful as waxing poetic about the meaning of life.  

Humans need connections with others, not just to survive, but to live a fulfilling life. We are wired for connection. We can’t function without others. And being able to communicate is a large aspect of forming connections. If you feel like you can’t communicate, or your message always gets lost in translation, this can also make you feel alone. 

MacklinConnection’s founder, Ron Macklin, observed throughout his career that most people struggled with being able to communicate. So he spent decades creating a method anyone can use to improve their communication. There is a biological basis for effective communication - it just isn’t something we’re taught as kids. 

In this article, we’ll examine 3 major communication mistakes. Part of having good communication skills involves knowing what not to do. If talking to someone makes you feel nervous, these tips will be a good place to start to make you feel more comfortable. 

Communication Mistake #1: Assuming Talking is Enough.

When we say something to someone else, it’s not like we just directly upload our message to their brain. The other person filters whatever you said based on their own perceptions and experiences, and then decides what it means to them. Just because you said exactly what you wanted to say does not mean the other person understands what you’re trying to communicate. You can never transmit a message exactly as you want the other person to receive it. You can only check in with them regularly to see how they are interpreting what you are saying.

Communication Mistake #2: Not Asking Questions. 

Asking questions is the only way we can start to understand how the other person is receiving your message. Asking questions also allows you to better understand where another person is coming from. You can never know exactly what it’s like to be another person. You don’t know what it’s like to have their experiences. And you don’t know how their experiences are shaping what they are saying or how they are receiving what you’re trying to communicate.

If you don’t check in regularly throughout the conversation, it is more likely that miscommunication can occur. You might assume they understand what you’re saying. But if you don’t ask them what they heard you say, you can never know for sure how they are interpreting the conversation. 

Likewise, when someone else is speaking to you, if you don’t ask questions you might be completely missing what they are actually saying. It’s easy to assume that you know what someone else is communicating. But there is no way to exactly understand the story in someone else’s head. You can only continue to ask questions until both people feel like there is mutual understanding. 

Communication Mistake #3: Not Actively Listening.

Good listening skills can transform a conversation. Listening allows you to notice what the other person is trying to say. If you aren’t listening, you won’t know what to ask to get a better idea of what’s being said.

Because we think faster than we speak, it is easy to lose focus when someone is talking to you. This can also mean that you are planning your response instead of listening to what’s being said.

Being a good listener means you are trying to better understand the other person’s interpretation of the world. Without actually listening to someone, you’re going to struggle deciphering what they are trying to say - because you have your own experiences and perspectives everything gets filtered through. And this is how miscommunication and misunderstanding can happen so easily.  

But when you listen - really listen - you can be proactive about preventing errors and creating more clarity. And the other person will be able to feel that you are being present in the conversation. We think we can zone out or focus on our own thoughts when someone else is speaking without anyone noticing. But, most of the time, the other person will be aware that your attention is elsewhere. And that might make them not want to continue sharing with you.

I remember having a conversation with a friend where I could tell she wasn’t listening to me. I could have said that there was an alien behind her and she wouldn’t have even noticed me saying this. So I stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. Even though I was with her physically at that moment, I felt alone. 

No one wants to share something with someone who is too busy in their own head. This is why listening creates more trust. When you are focused and actively listening to someone, they can feel it. And this will help them feel more comfortable engaging with you. 

Transform Communication Mistakes to Communication Skills

If you feel like you are terrible at communicating, you might feel lonely. Communication is one of the most important ways we connect with other people. Feeling like you can’t communicate can easily start to make you feel isolated.

But you deserve to be able to connect with others. Our connections make our lives richer and more meaningful. And connections are built on communication.

If you feel like communication has been challenging for you, start with understanding the basics:

  • You don’t just automatically upload your message to the other person’s brain. Everything you say will be run through their own filters and interpretations. Don’t assume your message was received exactly as you imagined it just because you said it out loud.
  • Asking questions is the only way to start building understanding between people. You can never know exactly what someone is thinking or what their perspective is. But you can ask questions to get a better idea of what they are noticing when you speak. And you can ask questions to get clarity when they share with you.
  • Listening prevents misunderstanding and miscommunication. Listening also develops greater trust between people and enhances our ability to connect through establishing empathy.

These concepts are simple, but they aren’t necessarily easy to master. Communication is like any other skill. It requires consistent practice. And the more you practice your communication skills, the more you can open yourself up to creating new connections. 

If you want to improve your communication skills, we would love to have you in one of our upcoming workshops. To learn more, you can schedule a consultation with one of our leaders.