Picture this – You walk past two people talking. They appear animated, energetic, engaged. You see them laughing. Their facial expressions seem like they have been friends for ages.
You pause, gazing to the sky and think – “ How can I interact like that?”
Okay fine! You don’t actually think this. Just stick with me here.
No matter how great you think you are at conversing with others – we all make tiny mistakes. Over the years you have gotten comfortable with how you communicate. I am here to remind you that there is room for improvement. These common mistakes below impact outcomes and engagement. Pay heed to what you do often and make it a habit to improve.
You keep interrupting
Your brain races ahead in the conversation. You know what the other person is talking about. You want to show them you know. So you interrupt. This happens all the time in professional environments. The root cause of this problem is that you don’t listen as well as you need to.
You are always right
If you are in a romantic relationship (or have been) you have experienced this already. There is a weird need to always be right. This stems from the inability to respect another person’s viewpoint. Let everyone have their say. You need to hear them out.
You feign interest
It’s evident when you are not interested. You fidget. Your eyes wander. You drop your shoulders. You lose eye contact. Worse – you pull out your phone. If the other party is oblivious to the fact then no harm done. The problem is you cannot presume. If you can’t feign interest it’s time to make an excuse and get yourself out of the interaction.
You miss the signs
You miss the non verbal cues and ramble on. This happens in interviews all the time. Nerves play up. The interviewee gets too focused on what they need to say. They forget to observe whether the other party even cares.
You are not interesting
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you felt like you were pulling teeth! They respond in monosyllables and have very little to offer up in experience or suggestion. They prefer to listen, listen, listen and not talk. This may not be you. But if it is – time to fix it.
You mimic a robot
Did you know that:
- 55% of in-person communication is body language,
- 38% is in the tone of your voice and
- 7% is the actual words spoken.
If you want to get better – start with fixing your movements and tone.
You forget to animate
Now I am not saying you need to do this all the time. But a warm smile, genuine look of astonishment or an animated hand move go a long way in conveying interest. I often throw in gestures to emphasize phrases or points that warrant it. Try it and see engagement levels rise.
One caveat here – your animations need to be well timed and used in the right context. Try this. I call it the prayer move. If your hands are together move them apart as if you were looking up in prayers and bring them back together. Simple.
You make everything about you
Put another way – you forget to ask the other people questions. Everything is about you and your stories. Worse if the other person is acting interested and listening you read it as a cue to ramble on. This often happens when strangers are meeting for the first time.
Here’s a suggestion – head into every conversation with a few pre-planned questions.
You use fancy words
Sure you have a fabulous vocabulary! Good for you. But what’s the point if no one can understand what you say. Stop with the hackneyed expressions, the prosaic points and the execrable commentary. Get it?
You forget that you are speaking to another human
Once in business school I happened to have a good long conversation with a guest visiting campus. It was only at the end of the conversation that I realized she was the CEO of a large bank. If I knew this beforehand I may have raised my guard.
Most importantly, we need to remember that at the end of the day we are all human. If you are a great conversationalist it shouldn’t matter who you are talking to.
Which common mistake have you recently made?