Let’s face it: Many of us are not the best communicators. We avoid talking through issues, and have a fear of picking up a phone—to speak to someone, that is. Yet, we have no problem using our phones to do any number of things to distract us from dealing with an issue, face-to-face. We love to hide behind the sanctuary of our screens.
Of course, it’s not just your phone that’s the problem. We’ve lost the ability to communicate effectively, leading to mixed messages, miscommunication, and eventually, conflict. In the workplace, poorly managed conflict and disagreement kill productivity and efficiency. Outside the office, it can lead to ongoing resentment that lingers like an unrelenting fog.
The best way to begin a high-stakes conversation is to identify the root of the problem. Remember: You may be telling yourself a “story” that’s completely inaccurate, affecting the resolution to your problem. If you approach the discussion with this in mind, you’ll be more open to listening to the other person’s side of the argument, which sets the tone for resolution from the start.
Easier said than done, right? But, if you can become more aware of what you’re doing to sabotage your communication, you’ve taken the first step toward more constructive solutions.
If you succumb to any of these habits, it may be time to rethink your communication style:
1. Looking at Your Phone
Watching someone scrolling through texts, email, and social media notifications will irritate anyone you’re in a conversation with. Remember the book by spiritual guru Ram Dass, Be Here Now?
Simply put: stay off your phone and give the other person the respect of your full attention.
2. Using the Words “Always” and “Never”
The words “always” and “never” are sweeping generalizations that are often erroneous. Statements such as, “You always do this...” or “You never do that...” will put others on the defense.
Take personal responsibility for your part in any conversation. Own your feelings without accusation, and speak from a personal perspective. Try, “I feel this when...” Taking ownership of your feelings will always be received more positively.
3. Raising Your Voice
We all have a fight-or-flight response. When someone raises their voice or challenges our ideas, our “fight” reflex gets activated. Besides, nothing turns people off more quickly than shouting and bullying. So, keep your cool.
4. Interrupting the Other Person
Can’t wait to make your point? All the other person hears is interjecting.
The key is to listen in order to understand. Take a pause before speaking. If you’re not taking in the other side of the argument, how can you possibly resolve it?
5. Being Overbearing
Trying to control the outcome of a conversation never works, and will lead to more alienation. Letting go of control can, at times, be your secret weapon. Be open to the other person’s feelings, and check your ego at the door.
6. Projecting a Negative Attitude
A closed-minded attitude exhibited in your tone, facial expressions, and body language won’t serve you in overcoming a dispute. When you remain open and willing to receive the other person’s viewpoint, the tide will shift to a more supportive dialogue and an accommodating outcome.
7. Saying Nothing at All
The “silent treatment” or lack of interaction will lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Healthy dialogue requires the involvement of willing participants.
If the conversation’s getting heated, it’s perfectly healthy to take a few breaths and “pause” to gain your composure. If necessary, ask to delay the conversation if more time is needed to calm down—but don’t walk away or give up.
8. Having Hostile Body Language
Crossed arms? No direct eye contact? Finger pointing? You’ve just lost the respect and attention of the person you’re in a conversation with.
9. Making it All About You
Instead of doing all the talking, ask for the other person’s thoughts and ideas on the subject. Try your best to see the issue from both sides.
What you tell yourself about any situation is never 100% accurate, and you’re not always right in your preconceived ideas and assumptions.
10. Cursing and Swearing
This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. It can happen—we’re human, after all. However, your point will be utterly misplaced if you consistently pepper your conversation with offensive language.
11. Jumping to Conclusions
The antidote to assumptions and judgment is always this: ask more questions. Dig for more information to ensure you’re both on the same page. For the sake of clarity, recap what was said. Try saying, “So what I’m hearing you say is...”
12. Maintaining an Air of Indifference
If the other person sees that you’re apathetic, your chances of reconciling a problem are very slim. Approach the dialogue with empathy and compassion, and be sure to maintain or enhance the person’s self-regard.
13. Making Sarcastic Remarks
While you may find it helps to interject sarcasm, it’s not an effective tactic during a high-stakes conversation. It’s often a self-defense mechanism that can be risky and far too open to interpretation. There are better ways to make your point.
14. Failing to Say “Thank You”
There’s huge power in an attitude of gratitude. Always thank the person and acknowledge their time and bandwidth in their contribution to the conversation.
15. Stretching the Truth
Exaggerating your side of the story and pumping up your hostility can only lead to one outcome: communication breakdown. Stick to the facts, and only the facts.
This article was originally published on Inc. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of person talking courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.