Ten Impediments to Effective Communication

There are countless reasons why high-quality, effective communication can be difficult. We are all individuals, with different ways of viewing the world, different biases and objectives and vulnerabilities. We so often judge what we see and hear based upon our own experiences and predispositions. We should remember, however, that effective communication begins with mutual respect, a give-and-take exercise that should ideally conclude with a better understanding than was present at the beginning.

The following impediments are worthy of consideration when attempting to improve and augment one’s communications skills:

1. Lack of Focus – What are you trying to communicate? Are you rambling? Are you starting off in one direction and steering toward another? Stay on your message so that your course becomes a straight line.

2. Lack of Clarity – Are you using the right words, expressions, or examples to paint the mental picture? Do you see in the faces of your audience that they get it, that you’re all on the same page? It matters little how fancy your prose or how funny your jokes if the audience connection isn’t there.

3. Lack of Specificity – This deals with precision, and goes a step further than focus and clarity. So, lieutenant, you want us to take the hill. Which hill? And with how many men? And within what time frame? Remember: Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

4. Lack of Enthusiasm – Have you ever heard a speaker say, “We’re excited about it,” with about as much conviction as if he were delivering a lecture on the disposal of cat litter? It’s not necessary to become Richard Simmons espousing the benefits of exercise, but enthusiasm does help in elevating the energy levels between a speaker and an audience.

5. Lack of Empathy – If you are a boss addressing your employees, are you measuring your remarks with how your words and body language and delivery are being viewed by those employees? If you are a physician delivering bad news to a sick patient, are you considering the news from the patient’s perspective? If not, you most certainly should.

6. Lack of Trust – Do you have a general openness about you? Do you maintain steady eye contact? Is your posture erect and confident? If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, rest assured your audience will notice. The trust will be gone. The message will be lost.

7. Lack of Reinforcement – Remember the old adage: Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you just told them. Give them the primary takeaway early, then reinforce.

8. Inappropriate Language – Choose your words carefully. Fit your words to your audience. Not too many, not too few. And be careful with profanity and other inappropriate language. It can greatly distract from your message to the point where it shuts down a listener.

9. Condescension – Do you enjoy being lectured to by a pompous jackass? Then don’t become one yourself.

10. Showing Anger – Keep your anger and aggravation in check. There may be the rare occasion where a strategic show of anger is effective, but in general it can reflect a lack of self-control or respect for the opinions of others.

Remember, there are several techniques for improving one’s communication abilities, but be aware of the foregoing as potential communication impediments.

Good luck and good communicating.