Not many people are willing to admit they are a bad driver. The same is true of communication. Most people would argue that they have at least adequate communication skills. After all, they are talking to you, aren’t they?
When it comes to communication, the truth is that most of us are missing the mark. We think we are good communicators, but we lack in many areas.
Experts call this signal amplification bias, which refers to the fact that we are not only bad at communicating with others, but we don’t even realize it.
The biggest mistake we make when we’re communicating is thinking we are good at it.
I’m a Mind Reader…Said No One Ever
One of the major problems with our communication skills is that we believe others can read our body language and can derive meaning from our words and actions.
The trouble is that we don’t always mean what we say and our bodies can give away other signals that lead people to believe something other than what we are conveying.
What’s more, if we tell a lie, we think people can immediately tell that we are lying, which results in more physical discomfort and mixed messages to the other person. It’s all very confusing.
We Assume and Use Our Own Words
Communication is hard; there’s no doubt about it. But we don’t make it any easier on ourselves. When we are having a conversation with someone, especially a heated conversation, we like to insert meaning and words where there are no words. We like to say the things we think people are thinking.
For example, if you are arguing with someone it’s likely you might say something to the effect of, “I’m sure you think I am unreasonable, but I don’t want to go to the party.” Meanwhile, the other person is left wondering why you think they think you are unreasonable.
And it’s made even worse when the other person responds, “I didn’t say you were unreasonable.” And then you just get defensive, and the whole thing falls apart.
Never Leave Words Unsaid
When it comes to improving our communication skills, there are several phrases we need to remove from our daily use. These are common phrases that many people utilize on a regular basis and it undermines their communication efforts.
The worst part is that people think it makes them sound smarter, but all it does it cloud the communication that is happening. Phrases such as “it goes without saying,” “it might be obvious, but…” and “you don’t know what I mean,” take away from the opportunity to express our feelings and thoughts in a meaningful way.
So the next time you catch yourself saying these things, stop and take some responsibility for your communication. When you hear others saying these things, make it a point to let them know you don’t know what they mean, or that things aren’t as obvious as they seem.
Others might not like it when you call them out on their poor communication styles, but if we held each other a little more accountable when it comes to our communication, we might not be talking about this very real problem right now.
What Can We Do About This?
The trouble with communication is that people think talking is enough. The idea of talking about communication is all very meta and people don’t like to spend time in uncomfortable situations talking about their talking.
As humans who spend a lot of time “talking,” we do very little communicating. Communication happens when there are a sender and a receiver who can understand and interpret the messages being received. If one person is feeling left out in the cold after a conversation, then communication was not successful.
How many times throughout the run of a day have you found yourself walking away from a conversation thinking, “what the hell just happened?”
This happens when communication fails, and according to experts, it’s happening more than we care to admit. If we want to improve our communication skills, we need to first take ownership of our own communication skills and continually work to ensure others receive and understand our words, actions, and behaviors in the way we intended. And if they don’t, we need to work at it until they do.