Seven bad communications habits cause trouble
“At the end of a conversation, the difficult person remains the same, but often you are in a weaker position,” Tumlin points out. “But giving up your desire to ‘win’ by imposing your will on the other person can realistically and consistently improve your communication with difficult people. When you find yourself with no choice but to interact with a difficult person, have modest expectations, avoid tangents, and stay focused on your end goal. It’s really all you can do.”
Bad Habit #7: Overreacting. In 2013, we often used more force than needed to accomplish our objectives. We yelled when a measured response would have worked better, sent a blistering e-mail when a more restrained reply would have sufficed, and issued an ultimatum when a firm but gentle statement of convictions would have done the trick. But excessive force frequently causes a destructive cycle—attack, retaliation, escalated attack, and escalated retaliation, etc. No matter how justified you may feel, the bottom line is that using excessive force isn’t usually a winning strategy.
“Exercising restraint during a contentious interaction is challenging, but try to apply the least amount of interpersonal force and intensity necessary to accomplish your objective,” asserts Tumlin. “In other words, bring a stick to a knife fight in order to prevent a conversation from escalating dangerously. Try to stay serious and focused, don’t add any new emotional material, and keep the conversation as brief as possible. Be the calm, controlled, and stabilizing influence on a conversation that’s become heated so you can minimize the chance of permanent relational damage.”
“In 2014, let’s focus on shedding the bad communication habits that are coming between us and the most important people in our lives, because those bad habits prevent us from having the kinds of productive and meaningful interactions we desire,” concludes Tumlin. “Eliminating just one or two bad communication habits will dramatically improve your communication and strengthen your relationships in the new year.”
That’s where his book, Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life, comes in. Full of counterintuitive yet concrete advice, it draws on Tumlin’s experience as a communication consultant to show readers how to unload bad habits, improve conversations, and use today’s powerful digital devices, not to fragment attention and dilute relationships, but to achieve more of their most important goals and aspirations.
Geoffrey Tumlin is the founder and CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC, a communication consulting company; president of On-Demand Leadership, a leadership development company; and founder and board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. Tumlin holds a PhD and an MA in communication from the University of Texas at Austin and a BS from West Point. For more information, go to www.tumlin.com.
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