In today’s workplace, there are countless forms of communication to stay on top of. Between instant messages, Zoom calls, emails, presentations, client meetings, and hallway conversations, you can easily spend the majority of your workday communicating about your work rather than doing the work itself.
But what good is all that if you aren’t an effective communicator?
Not only can it cause you to make mistakes or miss deadlines, impede your productivity, and increase your stress, it can affect your leaders, coworkers, and clients in the same way.
If your goal is to be an effective communicator, but you aren’t sure you’re there yet, then you might fall into one or more of the following traps. Let’s review what those are so you can create a development plan that bridges the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
6 Signs You Are NOT An Effective Communicator
- You Use Too Much Jargon
- You Don’t Pick Up on Non-Verbal Clues
- You Try to Be Assertive, But It Comes Off As Aggressive
- You Don’t Time Your Message Right
- You Listen to Speak, Not to Understand
- You Avoid Tapping Into Your Emotions
⚠️You Use Too Much Jargon
There is a time and place for corporate speak and acronyms. But as Bart Engal, author of Leading Through Language, points out, “[The same] jargon that allows for speed can be detrimental to those who do not understand it but are assumed to. Jargon that creates a shared identity for some can exclude others simultaneously.” In other words, the effectiveness of your communication will be compromised if you do not consider who your audience is and their understanding before using certain short-hand or phrases.
⚠️ You Don’t Pick Up on Non-Verbal Clues
An article published by BBC noted that “roughly 60% to 80% of face-to-face communication is non-verbal, such as the pacing, pauses, gestures, and tone. All of these cues bring energy and emotional nuance to our message.” However, given that so many of our day-to-day interactions in the workplace are digital, reading those cues has not only become more difficult, it has become more important. Therefore, to be an effective communicator, you must have the ability to read non-verbal cues both in-person and online, evaluate their meaning at the moment, and then respond accordingly.
⚠️ You Try to Be Assertive, But It Comes Off As Aggressive
Assertive communication is defined by one’s ability to speak firmly, directly, and confidently, all while listening to and respecting others. It’s considered by many to be the ideal communication style. However, in some cases, it can come off and be interpreted as aggressive, especially if your tone is loud or harsh, you’re over-expressive, you interrupt others, or you are unwilling to compromise. In this case, it can negate the potential benefits of truly assertive communication, such as reduced anxiety, higher self-esteem, and better relationships.
⚠️ You Don’t Time Your Message Right
Timing is everything when it comes to communication in the workplace, and getting it wrong can make a good situation bad and a bad situation worse. For example, bringing up a coworker's mistake in the middle of a team meeting or a public space can easily make them feel embarrassed or defensive. This would negatively impact your ability to deliver your message and the receiver’s ability to hear it as you intended. In this situation, an effective communicator would instead evaluate a situation, recognize the potential consequences or fallout, and delay their message until a time when they can address it in private.
⚠️ You Listen to Speak, Not to Understand
When someone is speaking to you, do you listen to what is being said, or do you immediately begin to formulate a response in your head? If you find yourself doing the latter, you are missing out on crucial information that will keep you from being a truly effective communicator. So while it’s essential to learn how to speak, it’s also important to learn about the different types of listening and how you can utilize them in your everyday interactions at work.
⚠️ You Avoid Tapping Into Your Emotions
It’s a common misconception that showing emotion at work is a bad thing. While it is obviously not always appropriate, some situations call for honesty, empathy, and humility. For example, if you are a leader discussing an employee’s poor performance and they reveal a difficult personal detail that provides some rationale behind it, you would appear cold if you didn't respond with some emotion. Remember, when used in the right context, communicating with emotion can help you forge connections, build trust, and earn respect.
Conclusion: Become an Effective Communicator with Niagara Institute
If you’re showing one of the signs listed above, that’s not to say that you cannot correct it and become a truly effective communicator. In fact, that’s why communication training exists. With programs such as Niagara Institute’s Speaking as a Leader or Taking the Stage, you can build your confidence, gain practical communication tools, and practice using your new knowledge in a safe environment with the support of a trained facilitator.