Habits keeping you from being a great business communicator? - BOSDaily#007

Throughout my years, I’ve identified a few everyday habits that suck the potential out of communication. I call them the four leeches. Most people — me included! — have most, or all, of them in some form. I’m not implying they’re bad but the skill is to be conscious of them and not let them rear their heads too often

Leech #1: Looking good

We all like to look good. 
This primal human ambition can often get in the way of our listening and our speaking. This tendency often comes out in two simple words: “I know.” But if I know everything, what can I learn? Not much. The Zen proverb: “Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.” sums up this motion nicely.


A more subtle way of looking good that tarnishes communication is what I call “speechwriting.”
As that pointless noise — you speaking — is going on in front of me, I am concentrating on piecing together my next brilliant monologue. This practice often produces the “anyway…" response, that ignores what was just said and moves the topic to a new place. It’s a trait that often accompanies people in power, even though it’s not a very good style of leadership at all.

One step up from speechwriting is competitive speaking.
This potent form of excitement-killing is all about looking the best. For example, let’s say I exclaim, “We’re so excited to be going to Italy on holiday this year.” The competitive speaker will jump in with, “Oh yes, I’ve been to Italy five times and I loved it!” My feeling deflates and my excitement has been made to look second-rate.


Leech #2: Being right

If there is one thing we like more than looking good, it’s being right.
When I'm right and you're wrong, it makes me feel I'm the best. The desire to be right can be very dampening in business. As the educator, Harville Hendrix said, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be in a Business? Because you can’t always have both. You can’t empathize while ‘being right’ all the time."

The need to be right can arise from a fear of being inadequate.
Or it may come from the fear of being seen for what we really are, flawed humans who are perfectly imperfect and full of contradictions. We wish to feel justified and respected, and being right — or making others wrong — is the way we choose to achieve these wants because it sets us above other people.

Interrupting springs from the want to be right.
This might be the result from speechwriting, but it often arises with no planning at all — simply from the want to disagree, demand an answer, or make a point now, without waiting for the other person to finish. Interrupting is becoming more common in our impatient lives, even in matters of life and death. One survey of physicians in the US and Canada found that patients were interrupted an average of 18 seconds into their opening statements; less than one-quarter were allowed to complete what they wanted to say.

Interrupting has two unfortunate consequences.
We don’t hear what the other person is saying, which might be useful. And it most likely damages the rest of the conversation by changing the dynamics — the interrupter is exercising their dominance. The interrupted person may feel belittled, giving rise to anger, resentment and the unwillingness to be open up. While interrupting is not always wrong, it should never become a habit.


Leech #3: People pleasing

If someone is — or is perceived to be — driven by people-pleasing, it robs their speech of power.
Honesty and authenticity are absent, and these are key components for strong communication. People pleasers might say yes when they mean no, or agree to go out when they would much prefer to stay in. They may reply with opinions that they disagree with in order to be liked. While we all have this desire to have other people like us, it’s a question of "how far do we go?".

If you find yourself people-pleasing, take some time to think about your own values.
Ask yourself: What do I stand for? What is important to me? What is not negotiable? Write down everything that comes to you. When you have your core ethos clear, it becomes much easier to stand in them and not be blown around by other people’s opinions or needs.


Leech #4: Fixing

Fixing is about trying to make it all right.
“Don’t cry” or “Don’t be upset” is the fixer’s primary response to pain. Why is this a leech? Because sometimes people need to be upset and to express their sadness and anger or other strong "negative" emotions.

Fixers think it’s not acceptable for others to be upset.
It may derive from people-pleasing, or it may be that strong negative emotion is seen as something to be feared — either because they had too much of it in their family or because of complete lack of experience of it.

Fixing, whether by withholding like that or by distracting with affection, denies people the feelings they need to feel.
Not only that, but many fixers habitually deny themselves strong feelings. When communication is driven by the need to fix, it usually means there’s a hidden agenda at work — one that is all about the fixer’s needs, even though it may be disguised as love.


Some of these leeches may be minor or even non-existent for you.
I’m willing to bet you can identify at least one that has affected — or is currently affecting — your opportunities in life. As you consider them and become more and more conscious of their existence in your speech, their power will be lessened. Simply shining the light of mindfulness on them should cause them to wither and shrink.

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