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10 communication mistakes you must avoid

By Nancy Katyal
January 12, 2016 09:36 IST
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Watch out for your tone and choice of words, says Nancy Katyal, founder and chief image officer at ThePerfectYou.

Introduce yourself properly

Everyone communicates only few connect, said John Maxwell.

Want to make the right impressions at your workplace? Follow these simple rules to improve your communication skills.

1. Inappropriate introduction

Introducing yourself properly is the first step in making a great first impression.

A common error is starting your introduction with -- 'Hello, Myself Nancy'. This is grammatically incorrect.

Instead a good way to start your introduction would be -- 'Good morning/afternoon, I am Nancy' or 'hello, my name is Nancy'

Another error people make when asking people their names is –'What is your good name?'

This is an Indian expression, a direct translation from the Hindi 'Aapka shubh naam kya hai?'

This expression should be avoided. The simple replacement is 'What is your name?'

2. Using fillers like umm, uh, you know, like, etc.

Filler words like "um" may seem natural in everyday speech, but they do not belong in formal presentations or in interviews.

Reducing the fillers is essential so that listeners can focus solely on their message.

When you use a filler word such as "um," you are thinking verbally.

The best way to avoid using filler words is to pause, take a couple seconds to think about what you want to say.

This pause will help you avoid using a filler word. Pause, think, and answer.

3. Avoid speaking too fast

When you speak too fast, you don't leave nice spaces of silence between phrases and sentences, thus making your listeners work too hard.

People interpret fast talking as a sign of nervousness and a lack of self-confidence.

There are some useful exercises you can download from the internet to practice and put pause between phrases or at the ends of sentences.

Speak clearly. Make sure that you slow down your pace and embrace the pause.

4. Not maintaining eye contact

Eye contact is important in conveying interest, sincerity, confidence and attention.

Eye contact is looking another person in the eyes when you are communicating with them.

If you are avoiding eye contact, then you appear to be intentionally looking somewhere other than a person's eyes when communicating.

This can be interpreted many different ways, depending on culture, for example, disinterest or anxiety. So, one should maintain eye contact if possible and culturally appropriate.

5. Frequent interruptions

Assert yourself into interrupting a conversation only when it is really needed.

You should do this politely, example -- 'Excuse me; I want to make sure I understand this'.

Constant interruptions may be perceived as arrogant or intolerant behaviour.

The best way to make a required interruption is to look for an opportune time in the conversation, such as when the speaker is slowing down.

6. Not focusing on the tone of your voice

One part of communication we often do not examine is the tone we use when we are communicating with others.

Carefully consider your tone from the perspective of how others hear it -- a pleasant or confident voice or a tired, bored voice?

Your tone should drive positive energy and not reflect fear and boredom.

7. Using jargons

People often use jargon when a simple, clear statement would communicate the message as well.

Some use jargon in a misguided attempt to impress, unaware that people don't know what they mean.

Not all jargon is bad. Vocational use of jargon with your colleagues is useful.

The overuse of jargons may however make you look as an elitist or as someone with a limited vocabulary unable to communicate beyond a narrow field.

8. Avoid negative phrasing

You should always try to use positive language and positive reinforcement, even if your message could be seen as negative.

Positive language sounds helpful, encouraging and moves the discussion forward.

Example:

Don't Say: 'You never finish work on time'.

Do Say: 'It seems you are having some difficulty with the timelines. What can I do to help'?

9. Political correctness in the workplace

Everyone wants to be in a healthy work environment where everyone feels safe, secure and respected.

You need to be careful to avoid discrimination against people of different race, colour, religion or sexuality to mention just a few.

You never know what can offend so it is advisable to be sensitive and cautious making politically incorrect remarks while communicating with others.

10. Don't panic in uncomfortable situations

Try not to fall apart if someone asks a question that you cannot answer.

Tell them that you cannot give an accurate answer right now and that you will follow up with them as soon as possible.

You will look more professional if you admit you do not know than if you guess and then have to retract the answer later if you guessed wrong.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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Nancy Katyal