Four Common Communication Errors To Avoid

Four Common Communication Errors To Avoid

This article outlines four common communication errors that undermine professional relationships, and shows you how to avoid them. 

Many people are held back by limiting communication habits they don’t even realise they have. By transforming these, your ability to communicate with other people and yourself can lead to deeper relationships and more success at work. Let’s take a look at some of these habitual errors, and how you can break them.


This is one of the most common communication mistakes. Here an assumption is made about the motive behind someone else’s communication and or behaviour.

In reality no-one can know someone else’s intent. We don’t have access to knowing how someone else thinks, other than what they tell us. So when we assume, we are actually projecting our own meanings onto others.

For example, your manager walks in without saying hello. You mindread she isn’t happy with the job you’ve done on a current project. Now you’ve projected your own meanings onto her behaviour, and so don’t think to ask her why she didn’t say hi, but instead start acting defensively.

The remedy is simple. When you catch yourself making an assumption about someone’s behaviour, check in with the other person as to their intent to make sure you’re both on the same page.


This is to imagine an extreme worst-case outcome to any situation. It’s done by referencing a challenging experience from the past and projecting it into the future to predict an outcome. Notice this process happens entirely in mind by making a link between a previous struggle to something that hasn’t happened yet.

To avoid catastrophising, stay in the present by treating each experience as an independent event.

Hearing V Listening

There’s hearing and there’s listening. What’s the difference?

Hearing is an involuntary process where our ears take in and process all kinds of sounds. Listening on the other hand, is an intentional act where we bring our attention to a sound or to what someone is saying.


Understanding the distinction between these two modes is important when communicating. It can be the difference between connecting with someone, and offending them.

Have you noticed that you’re capable of hearing someone speak whilst simultaneously wandering off in mind to think about something else? Maybe you nod and smile to look as though you’re listening when in fact you’re not following what the other person is saying. I call this pretend listening and it’s guaranteed to kill rapport between you.

When we listen to someone we intentionally pay full attention to what they are saying, putting aside our own thoughts, opinions and judgements. Listening in this way demonstrates care and builds rapport.

To practice listening, tune into what the other person is saying as if you were going to do a comprehension test afterwards.


Giving and receiving feedback is par-for-the-course in any workplace and an important component of high performance. When we take feedback about our performance and make it personal, that is when we identify as our role, we can become defensive.

To avoid falling into this trap, firstly make sure any feedback your receive is sensory specific. This means that the feedback contains specific details that were observed.

For example “When you spoke at the meeting you looked down at your notes the whole time and didn’t seek eye-contact with anyone in the room”.

An example of non-specific feedback is “That was good”. It sounds like you’ve received feedback, but nothing has been offered that you can actually learn from.

Once you have specific feedback to work with, know that it’s is about your performance, not about your value as a person. Now you can assess if there is accuracy in what has been offered, and if so, learn and grow from the experience.

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering”

– Don Miguel Ruiz

Want Help Avoiding These And Other Communication Pitfalls?

One way to dramatically improve your communication skills is to work with a competent coach who can work with you to utilise language and help you communicate more effectively. If you are experiencing relationship challenges in the workplace, or want to be an more effective leader click here to book a free  45 minute coaching session.

Written by Soo Balbi

Integral Leadership Coaching Sydney

Soo works primarily with executives, and specialises in working with women. Clients engage her to enable them to see their developmental blind-spots and unleash their full potential; in their professional and personal life.


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