As a leader, the quality of your communications is critical to your success. A good 80% of the executive coaching work I do involves communications that need to be adjusted.

Communication is interactional because there is an exchanging of roles throughout the process. In order to have effective communication you must depend on one another to keep the conversation moving forward.  However we all face possible pitfalls that can quickly de-rail a conversation.  Whether it is lack of interest or the wrong question is asked, we have all been guilty of, what I call, “Communication Derailers”.

There are a number of things that disengage people from a conversation. The trick is that you need to know how to identify the issue and make adjustments.  Here are some common communication derailers that I have experienced and witnessed:

Question Pitfalls
There are common pitfalls you can run into while asking questions.  It is important to be concise in your questions and clear with your intent.  An example question that has a yes or no answer, but you really wanted a detailed answer.

For example, “Do you feel that you could increase productivity with this promotion?”  This will provide a “Yes” as an answer, when you really wanted the details of what they could do to increase productivity.

Lack of attention
There are times when people are talking that you just zone out on them and find yourself thinking about other issues.  It is the job of the receiver to constantly pay attention and actively listen  At the same time it is the job of the sender to be clear, engaging, and concise. It is important to be able to spot the moment a topic has gone dry.

Inappropriate Topics
Everyone has different beliefs, ideals, values, etc. and in the workplace it is essential that you understand what is acceptable “conversational currency”. An example is politics. Politics might be an okay topic with some people but not with others.

In every organization there is always that one person that wants to talk to everyone. Being sociable around the workplace is great because you get to build rapport with your fellow employees, but if you fail to listen as well as talk you aren’t giving the other person an opportunity to express herself. Take a breath and listen.

It is crucial that when you are speaking with anyone in the workplace that you keep a calm demeanor. Whether you are giving a performance review, or trying to meet a deadline, you need to be in control of your emotions when communicating. Communicating when you are highly emotional can cause your message to become blurred and misinterpreted.

These are just some communication derailers. The important thing is to notice the common characteristics and how to spot them early on.  The easiest way to get back on track is to find mutual ground.  During conversation people will be attracted to whoever is most similar.  If you find yourself in a conversation that is not working, look for “conversational currency” and determine what can be used in a conversation to increase the value of it.

What are some additional techniques that you could use for conversational currency?

Additional Reading and References:

Pitfalls to avoid in workplace communications

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