Top 7 Mistakes in Communication

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on December 14, 2016  /   Posted in Articles

We all make communication mistakes. Some are so small that we don’t even realize we’re making them. Yet, small mistakes can add up and start to wreak havoc on conversations and relationships. Here are the top 7 mistakes:

  1. Ignoring what the other person is saying/Dismissing their concerns. If you do it to them, then you’re permitting them to do it to you. Nothing is gained and three things are lost: time, energy and your integrity. Listen to for their concerns. If you don’t understand, then tell them so.
  1. Focusing on faulty argument. This mostly applies to online comments, but happens in face-to-face discussions as well. The issue at hand disappears and energy is refocused to discrediting the other person, their stance and/or their argument.  The structure of an argument becomes more important than the subject. The core issue or problem remains.
  1. Debating. This is the chain reaction of #2. Debate is about winning an argument to influence others to support your claim, regardless of accuracy and truth. The topic of a debate is rarely analyzed, making improvements difficult if not impossible. Debate is zero-sum, win-lose enterprise that accomplishes nothing else. Parties become fixated on arguments rather than subjects.
  1. Using “you” statements. The subject of conversation switches to the person, blameusually laying blame at their feet. It is very easy to engage the “you” statement or to become entangled in its web. When someone uses it on us, we feel obligated to defend and retaliate. And the original subject vanishes from discussion. Example: “How did you break your leg?” is accusatory and focuses on the person, not the injured leg. It announces that you broke your leg on purpose. “What happened to your leg” shifts the focus on the method of breaking.
  1. Emotions can run high. This does not have to be a bad thing, though. It’s important to recognize emotions (yours and theirs), and not try to stifle them or let them run wild. Understanding what you’re feeling, and acknowledging what others feel, can go a long way.  Sometimes yelling is just venting frustrations with little to no animosity towards anyone. Yet, yelling is rarely received as such. Many people don’t respond well to yelling. They either yell back or start ignoring. When you notice your voice starting to get louder, pause and try to understand what’s persuading you to yell. “I’m feeling a bit frustrated by…” is better than yelling.
  1. Sticking to your guns. It’s ok to be wrong and uninformed. How we deal with each affects communication. If it’s more important to you to win an argument than solving a problem, then people will start to ignore you and your concerns.
  1. Assume motives of others. Try as you might, you do not know what’s going on inside someone else’s head. It may seem that someone is acting out of revenge, animosity, civility, love or indifference, but you really don’t know. A wrong assumption often leads to bigger mistakes and conflict. Example: Your spouse didn’t respond to your text. S/he is ignoring you. OR, they are driving. OR, they didn’t hear the notification.


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