agent of arcadia

Dysfunctional habits that can damage your communication style and personal brand

In Branding, Communication, Inspire, Language, Leadership, Networking, Personal Branding on July 6, 2016 at 3:06 am

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Have you ever been in a conversation where no matter what you did, you struggled to engage with the other person?

What was it that they did? Or didn’t do? Having a conversation should not be a difficult thing to do. After all, we all do it every day. We have multiple conversations with various people in several settings, using a variety of mediums. The thing is, you could be the most charismatic, articulate speaker or communicator, but there are some common conversational habits that would absolutely kill your chances at engaging with the other party.

So what are they? Let’s consider six habits that can damage your communication style and personal brand, and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Not listening

Have you ever been in a conversation where each time you say something, the other party interjects with a response before you have finished? Or worse, they’re busy checking their phones or their computer screens? When that happens, what are they not doing? They’re not listening.

Not listening is perhaps the number one dysfunctional habit in a conversation. To listen, you need to be present. Being present is so important to the art of active listening. If you let your mind wander, something interesting happens to your body language. Your eyes start to glaze over, you no longer make eye contact, and you start to look disinterested and pre-occupied.

When the other person senses you are not listening, in the short term, they might stop talking or focus their attention elsewhere. The long term repercussion, however, is more damaging. They will stop engaging with you completely.

2. Negative body language

Did you know that negative body language, such as crossed arms, no eye contact, staring and fidgeting, can initiate objections or inflame impulsive responses? Why do you think that is? For example, what happens if you don’t make regular eye contact with the person you are speaking to? You’ll notice that they’ll start to retreat within themselves and pull back from opening up and sharing with you. They might sit back from you or lose focus in the conversation. Or disengage completely. Or perhaps you won’t notice because you’re too busy not making eye contact.

3. Speaking too fast

So you’re in a meeting about the new initiative rolling out throughout the business. You’re a little excited as you talk about the grand new things it will do for various roles in the company. Passion takes over and you start rattling off all the features and benefits. The faces that look up at you in the boardroom seem to be in awe. This excites you even more which makes you speak even faster. The thing is, they’re not looking at you in awe. They’re not sharing in your excitement. They’re confused because they can’t keep up.

When you speak too fast, you make it challenging for others to follow your train of thought. So slow down, breathe, pause. Doing so allows others to listen to what you say and to get your point across. Don’t underestimate the power of the pause for impact and effect. And most crucially, take a breath. Do some homework and watch how other influential speakers deliver award winning presentations. You’ll notice they pause regularly.

4. Not getting to the point

To be an effective communicator, it’s so important to maximise on your time and that of your stakeholder’s or audience’s time.

You’d never see a professional and confident person waffle. Why? Because when you waffle, it demonstrates that your train of thought has a rogue train running off the tracks. It shows your audience you are disorganised and unclear about the direction of the conversation.

It’s important to be clear, concise and keep to your point. Structure is vital to ensuring you succeed in this. Having a five minute executive summary is a good start. Whether for a brief conversation or a lengthy discussion, keep the main points at the forefront of your mind. This includes high level findings, conclusions, recommendations, and call to action you can tap into where required.

5. Overcomplicating versus keeping it simple

Gibberish and jargon: what’s the difference? The difference is that technically, jargon is supposed to make sense but when you’re speaking to an audience who is not of the same group or profession, you may as well be speaking gibberish! Using and overusing jargon runs you the risk of losing your audience’s attention, and more importantly, your audience’s respect.

You also run the risk of coming across like a pompous know-it-all. Albert Einstein once said:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

The rule is to keep is simple. Remember: You want your audience to walk away with a call to action, not walk away feeling confused or stupid.

Part of the success in a conversation is in the simplicity of the delivery. So take a deep breath and speak confidently. And speaking of keeping it simple, if you’re unsure of how to pronounce or use a word, look up its meaning in the dictionary or find another word you can use. Preferably a simpler word. Try listening to the way influential speakers present and consider how they project their voice and speak clearly.

Read to increase your vocabulary. But remember to keep your delivery simple. It is not about how many words or how big the words are that you know and use. It is about being able to articulate your point. And the simpler the delivery, the easier it is for the other party to receive the message. The trick is to rely on your own ability to hold a conversation, not to rely on the grandiosity of the words to help carry your message.

6. Not being human

What do I mean by this?

To be human is to show vulnerability. There’s something to be said about sharing a little of yourself in a conversation. It helps you connect with another on a level that surpasses the transactional aspect of it. It helps you build rapport and trust. It helps you build credibility with the other party and increase your emotional bank account with them.

This is an important factor in a conversation. Unfortunately, in a busy world, it’s easy to forget this and default to technology for convenience, or bullet points to get the message across quicker, or simply skimming the surface because, well, it’s just easier to not have to delve into the intricacies of human emotions and the complexities behind showing one’s vulnerability.

When leaders share personal stories, they automatically become more human. By doing so, they inspire others to strive to overcome adversity.

Six dysfunctional conversation habits to quit

So here, we’ve looked at some dysfunctional habits that good conversationalists would swear against. Start with eliminating these six habits from your communication style and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better conversationalist and towards enhancing your personal brand within your organisation.

Copyright © agentofarcadia 2016

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