Communication is at the top of the list of things humans spend a majority of their time engaged in, but it also tends to be one of our greatest weaknesses as well.   A new book called Shut Up and Say Something by Karen Friedman delves into the most common mistakes people make when communicating and then gives personal examples and “try this” approaches to improving those areas.

Below are four of the most common communication mistakes identified in the book.

1.   Lack of or Too Much Eye Contact.

Whether you are speaking one on one or to a whole audience, eye contact plays a very noticeable role in communication.  What is too much eye contact?  Where should I look when speaking to a large group?  These are all common questions.

To have the greatest impact when speaking one on one, I like to use the rule of 75/25.  For 75% of the time you should be looking at your listener, any more and they’ll start to feel uncomfortable, any less and they’ll feel you aren’t confident.  The other 25% you should be looking at something you or the listener is demonstrating.

For example, if you are in an interview it can be your resume as you point to a job experience, it can be your hands as you make gestures, and likewise your listener’s hands when they speak.

When speaking to a large room you want to make sure you are making eye contact with each corner, side and space.  This helps the audience feel like they are included and your speech isn’t just for the back middle section.

2.  Speaking Too Fast

We are seldom aware of this ourselves, but when speaking to an audience we tend to go quicker.  Yet, studies have shown that audiences prefer to have a slower pace when listening.

It’s important to understand the power of pausing, give your audience a chance to really understand what it is the you are emphasizing.  Think of the slow relaxed pace Morgan Freeman uses when he narrates in a movie like The Shawshank Redemption.  He has you listening to every word.

3.  Not Sharing Examples

One of the greatest tools that separates the strongest communication from the weak is use of examples.  What would books like “The World is Flat”, “Outliers”, or “Freakonomics” be without the examples they share?  They’d be flat, dull, and uninteresting.

Likewise our own communication success increases significantly just by sharing examples.  These can vary from anecdotes, case studies, personal experiences, or metaphors.  Think of examples as the “pepper” to your conversation.  It adds the right amount of flavor to turn a boring dish to a tasty one.

4.  Using Jargon

Ever spoke to another business person who acted as if you understood every industry acronym out there?  What did you do?  You probably sat there and acted like you understood every word because you didn’t want to feel stupid for asking what an HDSR was.

Yet, when we are passionate or skilled in a niche, we tend to do the exact same thing.  People don’t mind learning what it is you are passionate about, they just want to understand it.

Take your audience’s perspective when communicating.  Usually it is better to be safe then sorry when using jargon.  Even if a few of your listeners understand the terms you use, chances are a good percent of them won’t.

How About You?

What common communication mistakes have you noticed and what tips do you have?  Leave comments below.

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