Communication Pitfalls

March 23, 2009

Let’s face it, sometimes we all put our “foot in it” and say the wrong thing. But the real skill I figured out is how to recognize what was said and then work to reduce the times we say it…

A pal of mine and I were grabbing coffee the other day and we brainstormed our top 10 – communication pitfalls.

  1. Asking your lover, pal or family a question when you aren’t truly interested in hearing them respond.
  2. Being afraid to tell someone “ I just want to be heard – can you listen without trying to give me an answer”. If more of us did this, I think we would actually find ourselves in a healthier place of trusting ourselves to seek our own answers…
  3. Asking questions that are a “lose”-“lose” game – you know this one, “Honey is my ass too big in these jeans”.
  4. Saying “ok” to a comment or statement when you really mean “ I hear what you are saying but am not in agreement”
  5. Omitting information because you don’t want to engage in a challenging conversation about it – Omission of the truth is only a shade different than an outright lie in my opinion and while it may make you feel better avoiding conversation – I find it always comes back to bite you on the ass in the end.
  6. Forgetting that a conversation is a dialogue between two or more people. That means someone’s speaks and another responds until a natural conclusion is reached – I like the old adage “if you think you are talking too much – you probably are”.
  7. Vagueness. Be specific. If you want to ask someone out on a date, instead of trying to lock them into a corner with “ What are you doing Friday night?” try a more clear approach; “Are you interested in going to dinner or a movie with me Friday night?. By giving them an option of day and activity, this technique allows the receiver to respond a couple of ways, such as in the affirmative with an alternative day or activity and in the case when they are not interested the date – it’s allows them to gracefully say no with out responding yes and bailing on you the day of.
  8. “I’m clean, are you?” Now what the hell is this all about? “Clean?” First of all having an STD or HIV isn’t about being dirty. So that’s a misconception and judgement I wish men would remove from online profiles because it doesn’t hold any weight. Not to mention I think it’s somewhat offensive to some of us.. or at least to me. Secondly – if it’s about not having any STD’s, not all of them have symptoms that are easily seen, so you don’t always know. I prefer that guys put words such as “ I test routinely for STD’s, last test was XXX” or “I take responsibility for my sexual health and check for STD every three months”.
  9. Responding to someone saying “I love you” with “me too” or ignoring it. Either you do or don’t. If you are someone who isn’t ready to say it, don’t fake it. A “thank you” is appropriate to let the person know you heard them. Of course, that doesn’t mean a follow up conversation might not occur as to what exactly you are feeling…or not.
  10. LISTEN – don’t just sit there and talk yourself out of another meeting.  You can listen to what the other person is saying.  As interesting as you think you are you may not be that interesting to someone else.
Tags: Advice
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Good article. I particularly like question #3 (lose/lose). When someone asks me, "do these jeans make my ass look fat?" I always want to respond with some wisecrack like, "not as much as the ones you had on yesterday!"

Great post!
As i learned years ago.Communication skills(and ESPECIALLY good communication skills)are LEARNED.We don't just have them.Most people think that they have WONDERFUL communication skills,when in reality they DO NOT.

Nice thoughtful reminders on communication. As I've gained in years I've found the first step is to look the person in the eyes and focus on them. Let the conversation develop naturally. If you need to tell a whole story let them know not to interrupt. I have friends that take over at the first instance and often I don't get to point out what I want or FORGET what I wanted to say. That's one sign of a feeble mind on both parts.

When I'm doing business at the counter, or talking with an expert, being focused on them and what they say, not in your head planning your next question means you're not paying attention. I also try to say something nice and keep it light and pleasant when appropriate. I try to make things short and focused. In my 20s I was a motor mouth, a few times I had nasty queens put me down on this. I learned my lesson and try to edit down to the essentials and keep it colorful.

Trying to be witty often doesn't come out that way, people get upset and you look like a dufus.

I learned to ask the clean question often, but not regarding STD /HIV, its about the backdoor ... as a 100% top, I dont know what has gotten into these bttms any more who dont clean themselves ... had one guy tell me to just put a condom on ... I walked away leaving him in a sling ...

additional meaning: "clean" sometimes means you don't do drugs.

I'll have you know that I scrub my drugs dutifully with soap and hot water before ingestion! And when I'm in a pinch, there's always Purell ;)

Great Column. Re: better communication: guys: if on line, on the telephone, or on a regular date (as opposed to a raunchy sex date) if you ask me zero questions about myself I assume you're not interested in me & I bail. It amazes me how often guys pretend to be interested enough to connect & give me endless details about their lives & ask nothing about me in return. I ask questions because I'm interested in others. Asking me nothing no matter how much you digress about yourself tells me first & foremost that you're only interested in yourself: duh!

I gotta be upfront with you. I TOTALLY disagree with what you said regarding "Omission of the truth is only a shade different than an outright lie in my opinion and while it may make you feel better avoiding conversation– I find it always comes back to bite you on the ass in the end."

I am very well trained in communication skills. I am an expert on the subject of remedial communication strategies, & I've counseled thousands of individuals & couples on the issue.

First & foremost, when you're conversing with someone, unless you have an agreement to be truthful & present in the dialogue, they don't owe you a thing. They don't owe you their attention, a response, a look, a shrug off, not even the truth. They have the right to say or do whatever they want & in whatever way they so choose too. The only thing that you have a right to is your own opinion on their manners.

In your post you are speaking from the perspective of the pending listener meaning, you've already voiced your opinion & are now waiting for a response. As the listener, your role in any conversation begins & ends with just that; LISTENING.

As a listener the only right you have is the choice to NOT listen; that's it. It is NOT your place to judge or determine the validity & truth in what's being said. Nor do you have the right to expect or demand an appropriate response from the other person.

Listening is an INVITATION for VOLUNTARY communication. It is NOT an order.

By you saying that "Omission of the truth is only a shade different than an outright lie.."
That's not an opinion. That, my friend, is a judgement & a rather harsh one I might add; especially given the levity of the supposed offense.

Not only that, but where did you come up with this shading scale of lies? Lies do not come in shades. If you choose to communicate from a place of true integrity then you'll understand that lies & truths cannot be segmented between 2 extremes. A statement can only be one of 3 things. TRUE, FALSE, or OPINIONATED. That's it.

You can have your opinions all you want. However, unless you possess the cloak & gavel authority of a judge, you have no right to mandate communicative participation from anyone. Then to condemn them as a liar for their imprudence, that's pomposity at its worst.
Even if it is point blank obvious to you that the other person is avoiding the issue by making excuses or pretending to agree with you, why not just change the subject? It's obvious that, for whatever reason, they don't want to go there. It won't hurt you a bit to converse about something mundane & elementary. Why choose to be combative in a way that will result in unnecessary accusations?

At worst, it just makes them rude & shallow but putting them in ranks with that of a liar? I mean, c'mon bud, what conversation could you possibly initiate that is so important?

I hear things from people that I disagree with all the time. Sometimes I'll converse & debate & other times I don't. When I CHOOSE not to participate in a conversation of opposition, guess how I usually respond?

I respond by saying "okay." That doesn't make me a liar nor does that constitute the omission of any truth. It means, "okay, I heard what you had to say & thank you very much for sharing your opinion."

The only opinion that you are entitled to is that of your own. Nobody owes you a word in edgewise. The only exception to this is when communication is premised on an agreement for mutual honesty.


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