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Are You Guilty of These Common Communication Mistakes?

Updated: Jun 21

It's no secret, effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships, both personal and professional however you may be unknowingly engaging in behaviours that undermine your communication efforts. Today, we’ll explore some common communication pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them.

Common Communication Mistakes | Rapid Transformational Therapy | Farita K.

1. Answering Calls Only to Say You're Busy

So you receive a call from a friend, family member or colleague and you pick up only to say, "Hey, I'm really busy right now, can I call you back?" While it might seem like the polite thing to do, this response inadvertently sends the wrong message.

Why It's a Problem

When you answer a call only to tell someone you're too busy to talk, it can make that person feel unimportant, neglected or that they don't matter, damaging the relationship over time. It’s like someone knocking on your door and you opening it just to say you don’t have time for them.

A Better Approach

Instead of picking up a call when you can't engage in conversation, consider these alternatives:

  • Send a Quick Text:  e.g., "Hi, Thanks for your call! I’m in a meeting/class/running errands/etc. right now. Can I call you back later today?" This approach shows that you appreciate their call, respect their time and are committed to getting back to them.

  • Let it Go to Voicemail: Allow the call to go to voicemail rather than answering and saying you're busy and be sure to respond when you have an opportunity to do so. Set a call reminder in your phone so you don't forget.

2. Saying "Sorry but I Have to Go" In the Middle of a Conversation

We've all been in situations where someone starts sharing something right when we need to be somewhere or are in the middle of something else, so we cut the conversation short with a quick "Sorry, but I have to go." However, this phrase can come across as dismissive and insensitive even when you don't intend it to be - especially if someone is sharing something stressful or difficult they are going through with you.

Why It's a Problem

Cutting someone off mid-conversation when they are expressing themselves is hurtful. It can make a person feel rejected and a non-priority. When someone is sharing something with you, they are often seeking connection, empathy, and understanding. Cutting short a friend, family member or colleague during a conversation this way can lead to feelings of hurt and resentment.

A Better Approach

Here’s how you can handle this situation more empathetically:

  • Acknowledge Their Feelings: Instead of abruptly ending the conversation, acknowledge what they are saying. For example, "I'm sorry to hear you're having a bad day. I'm just finishing up a few things, would it be okay if I call you back a bit later so we can chat more about this."

  • Follow Up: Make sure to follow up with them later. Reach out and let them know you’re available to listen. This shows that you genuinely care about what they were sharing and value their feelings.

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3. Ignoring Non-Verbal Cues in Conversations

Communication isn’t just about words; non-verbal cues play a crucial role in how messages are conveyed and received. Ignoring these cues can lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships.

Why It's a Problem

Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language often convey more than words. Ignoring these signals can make you seem disinterested or unengaged. For instance, if someone is visibly upset but you act as if nothing is wrong, it can make the person feel ignored, alone and misunderstood.

A Better Approach

To improve your non-verbal communication:

  • Be Present: Put away distractions like your phone or computer. Focus on the person you are communicating with.

  • Observe and Respond: Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. If they look upset or confused, address it. For example, "You seem a bit down today. Is everything okay?"

  • Mirror Their Emotions: Use empathetic body language to show understanding. Nod your head, maintain appropriate eye contact, and use facial expressions that match the tone of the conversation.

4. Only Calling Someone When You Need Something

We all know that person who only reaches out when they need something. Whether it's a favour, advice, or some kind of assistance, this habit can strain relationships and foster feelings of resentment over time.

Why It's a Problem

When you only contact someone when you need a favour, it can make the other person feel used and undervalued making the relationship seem transactional and one-sided. Over time, the person might start to avoid your calls or feel reluctant to help, knowing that your communication is always tied to a request.

A Better Approach

To build more meaningful connections:

  • Reach Out Regularly: Make an effort to contact people just to check in, share good news, or catch up. Regular, positive interactions strengthen relationships and show that you value the person beyond what they can do for you.

  • Express Appreciation: When you do need a favour, start by acknowledging your appreciation for their help. Afterward, make sure to thank them and offer your assistance in return when possible.

  • Reciprocate - Balance the Give and Take: Ensure that your relationships are balanced in terms of support. Be as willing to offer help as you are to ask for it.

5. Using Guilt as a Tool

Sometimes, in an effort to get what we want, we might resort to guilt-tripping others. This might involve reminding them of past favours or making them feel bad for saying no.

Why It's a Problem

Using guilt as a tool can seriously damage relationships. It creates an atmosphere of manipulation and resentment. People don’t like to feel coerced into doing things out of guilt, and over time, this can lead to mistrust and avoidance.

A Better Approach

To communicate your needs without using guilt:

  • Be Direct and Honest: Clearly state what you need and why, without making the other person feel bad. For example, "I could really use your help with this project. If you're too busy, I completely understand."

  • Respect Boundaries: Understand that everyone has their own limits and might not always be able to help. Respect their decision and avoid making them feel guilty.

  • Show Appreciation: Always express gratitude for any help you receive and ensure that your requests are balanced with offers of help and support from your side.

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6. Saying You'll Call Back and Then Don’t

Telling someone you'll get back to them and then failing to do so is a common but negative communication habit. It might seem minor, but it can have significant impacts on your relationships.

Why It's a Problem

When you say you'll call and don’t it can make the other person feel forgotten, unimportant and undervalued. This behaviour can erode trust and reliability in your relationships. People may start to believe they can't count on you, which can lead to frustration and disappointment.

A Better Approach

To avoid breaking promises about returning calls:

  • Follow Through: Make a note or set a reminder to ensure you follow through on your planned communication. Keeping your word builds trust and reliability.

  • Set Realistic Expectations: If you know you might not be able to call back soon, be honest about it. Say something like, "I’m not sure when I’ll be free, but I’ll do my best to call you back later today."

  • Communicate Delays: If you realise you won’t be able to get back to someone within the planned time frame, send a quick text message thanking them for their patience and understanding and propose a time to you will be in touch.

7. Interrupting a Conversation Between Others

We all experience times when we feel the urge to join a conversation even when the conversation is not directed at us. It can often happen when you're with people you feel comfortable around.

Why It's a Problem

Cutting into someone else's conversation, especially when a question is not directed at you can be seen as rude and make the interrupted person/s feel disrespected, creating frustration and tension in both your personal and professional interactions.

A Better Approach

To improve conversational dynamics:

  • Don't Interrupt Other People's Conversations: Just because you know the answer or are familiar with the points of a conversation, it doesn't mean you automatically have the right to interject yourself into the situation.

  • Wait Your Turn: Be patient and wait until the person has finished speaking or the question has been addressed before adding your thoughts.

  • Exercise Patience and Listen Actively: Focus on what the speaker is saying rather than preparing your response. This shows respect and ensures that your contributions are more relevant.

  • Seek Permission: If you feel your input is important, politely ask if you can add to the conversation. For example, "May I add something here?" This approach shows respect for the speaker and their conversation.

8. A Habit of Consistently Cancelling or Rescheduling Plans

While genuine cases of illness or unexpected events do occur in our lives, a habit of frequent last-minute cancellations of plans with family, friends and colleagues can be more than just an inconvenience. It can damage your credibility and relationships.

Why It's a Problem

When you consistently cancel or reschedule plans, it signals to the other person that you don't value their company or appreciate their time, time that they made to spend with you. This can lead to feelings of frustration, disrespect, and a lack of trust.

A Better Approach

To maintain trust and respect:

  • Communicate Early: If you absolutely must cancel or reschedule plans, inform the other person/s as early as possible. Apologise and offer a sincere explanation.

  • Commit to Your Plans: Make appointments and plans that you can realistically keep. Avoid overcommitting yourself to avoid frequent cancellations and upsetting others.

  • Offer Alternatives That Show You Care: When rescheduling, propose a few alternative options to show your willingness. For example, "I’m really sorry I have to cancel today. How about we reschedule for tomorrow at the same time, or is there another time later this week that works better for you?"

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It's easy to be a better communicator - it's about making others feel valued, respected, and understood. By avoiding these common communication pitfalls, you can foster stronger, more genuine connections that make you feel good about your personal and professional relationships.

Improving your communication skills requires practice, mindfulness and some effort but the rewards are really worth it. Remember, the small changes in how you communicate often make the biggest difference. Start today and watch your relationships flourish!

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