Communication is one of the most important skills for career lions. Excellent communication skills will help you with job interviews and to be more effective at work. Without effective communication, all of your hard work will not pay off as one might hope (so I have noticed).
In People Skills, Robert Bolton lists twelve ways to kill a conversation. These barriers are related to judging, proving solutions to, and diverting the problem of the other. By becoming aware of these different communication barriers, you will be able to improve the effectiveness of your communication skills and perform some conversation CPR.
1. Starting with criticism
While giving criticism aiming to help others develop, starting the conversation with this will block the communication such that it loses its effectiveness.
GUILTY – When someone wants to blow of some steam, they are NOT necessarily interested in my criticism. There is a time and place for criticism, but chances are that these should not be the first words to leave my mouth.
2. Labelling someone
Labelling someone has a negative meaning. Moreover, you lose the chance of learning about yourself and your interlocutor.
GUILTY - Even though I can’t think of any examples, I am sure somehow somewhere I have labelled people in conversations. Even if it is just based on their previous behaviour. Surely, this impacts some of my conversations negatively…
3. Responding with a diagnosis
Responding with a diagnosis, instead of listening to the content can become detrimental for the communication.
GUILTY – Apparently, I need frequent reminders that I am not a psychologist… (Even though I tend to forget that, when I try to apply some of my newly obtained knowledge from another non-fiction book or podcast).
4. Being too praising
Praising someone at first only seems positive. However, it can be blocking when this is used in a manipulative way or can become harmful when the interlocutor starts to defend him- or herself.
GUILTY – Who knew that trying to praise someone was harmful?! I did not get the memo…
5. Giving orders
Giving orders entails solutions provided with force. These can make someone either defensive or obedient and may have negative consequences for someone’s self-esteem.
GUILTY – I may forget to ask nicely once my brain has decided on something.
6. Threatening with consequences
Threats are solutions proposed along with a punishment in case they are not implemented. This can have a comparable impact on communication as giving orders.
GUILTY – Okay… I admit it, sometimes I do throw in the occasional punishment. Especially, when the boyfriend does something I am so to say “not a fan of”. The consequences usually involve contributions to new Le Creuset items (think of casseroles, grillits, and kettles), you know, to make up for it…
“You could possibly…” or other moralising sentences are a barrier in communication as they prevent self-expression and create agitation, resentment, and hypocritical behaviour. This occurs when one ratifies their ideas with social, moral, and/or theological authority.
GUILTY – Again, no examples. But does the fact that I can’t think of examples really mean that I am not guilty? Maybe that makes me even guiltier. The first step to growth being acknowledgement and all.
8. Asking too many or inappropriate questions
By asking too many or inappropriate questions, the conversation will dry out.
GUILTY – For some reason, I just love asking more questions once I notice someone is getting a little uncomfortable. Wow, writing that does make me feel a just a wee bit bad (but let’s not exaggerate, it can be quite funny too).
9. Giving unsolicited advice
Bolton describes giving advice in general as an insult on the intelligence of the other, as it means the advisor feels the other is unable to grasp and solve their problems on their own.
GUILTY – Now I feel horrible… Of course, I have been given some insulting unsolicited advice in the past. But really, most of the times I was glad someone took the effort to help me improve. Should I have felt insulted instead?
10. Constantly providing your own examples
Providing your own examples can be a distraction method. It could be related to your own disability to listen, desire to divert the attention to yourself, or (conscious) wish to change the topic of the conversation.
GUILTY - Where I find it helps me in trying to empathize with others and adds to my credibility when sharing my thoughts on the topic, I have come to the realization that providing an overkill of my own examples certainly must be avoided (Do examples of other people count too? Haha).
11. Arguing to logically
Logical reasoning can be appropriate in stressful situations. However, in communication it could become a barrier when this generates a distance between you and your interlocutor.
GUILTY – Yes, this one too. I get very calm and logical when the situation is actually more stressful and critical. With others experiencing the contrary, I just always assumed that was the communication barrier. Never knew I was worsening the situation.
12. Constantly reassuring
Constantly reassuring can be a blockade when it is used as an emotional withdrawal, such that you do not have to deal with the issue at hand. It can even prevent true solace.
GUILTY – Did they also forget to give me the memo stating that reassurance is not what someone wants to here and blocks your communication? I am confused!
Reading all twelve, all I can think is: “I am a conversation killer”. I seriously believe I am guilty of engaging in a few of these communication barriers in each and every of my conversations. Surely, I notice when a conversation dries out after a less tactful statement. However, I never really put much thought into the many different ways communication can be blocked. Meanwhile, it also gets me thinking about my own experience when others engage in them. The fact that Bolton estimates that 90% of all conversations contain one or more of these barriers, reassures me everyone encounters communication blockades. I am in desperate need of some conversation CPR.
My plan is as follows: each week I will focus on eliminating one of the barriers from my communication. Hoping that by week twelve, I will be keeping conversations alive and well! This week I will start with avoiding providing my own examples. Honestly, by now everyone is probably well aware of my examples (seeing as I tend to repeat them as well). I will keep “my” examples to “my”self and will only speak of them when I am not the one bringing them up.
What is your experience with communication barriers? And reading this article, are you ready to do some communication CPR? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comment