10 Biggest Communication Blunders (Cont'd)
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Posted by: Dr. Alan Zimmerman
Dr. Zimmerman's TUESDAY TIP:
Positive communication focuses on what’s right......not on who’s
Dr. Alan Zimmerman's Personal
Positive communication sees
solutions and pathways. It builds bridges and connects people.
That's our goal for every
Unfortunately, the research says
that is not what typically happens. Communication breaks down all too often.
People may use the wrong words when they communicate or exhibit
inappropriate behaviors that turn others off. And so they do not get the
results they want.
Perhaps that's why someone
compiled the silly, tongue-in-cheek "Redbook of Manners" ... to tease
people in to thinking about what they say and how they behave ... so they can
avoid some of the communication blunders that will mess up their at-work and
Last week I gave you a few
examples from the book. Here are a few others.
- While ears
need to be cleaned regularly, this is a job that should be done in private
using one's OWN truck keys.
- When dating
(outside the family), the man needs to establish with her parents what
time she is expected back. Some will say 10:00 PM; others might say
"Monday". If the latter is the answer, it is the man's
responsibility to get her to school on time.
- When sending
your wife/girlfriend down the road with a gas can, it is impolite to ask
her to bring back beer.
- Dirt and
grease under the fingernails is a social no-no, as they tend to detract
from a woman's jewelry and alter the taste of finger foods.
- When it
comes to weddings, even though it may be uncomfortable, you need to say
"yes" to socks and shoes for this special occasion.
You get the point. Some
words and some actions are horribly ineffective when it comes to communication.
As I said last week, there are ten communication blunders you need to
avoid. Last week I gave you five of those. Here are the other five
words, phrases, and communication approaches you need to avoid ... or at least
use with extreme caution. They're all a part of what I teach in my program on "The Partnership Payoff: 7 Keys to
Better Relationships and Greater Teamwork."
You need to be very careful when
you're telling other people how things "should" be done and what is
right or wrong. If you do it ineffectively, you're going to trigger a
negative reaction in the other person.
After all, most people already
know what's right and wrong. Besides that, preaching typically requires years
of theological training you most likely do not have.
So don't preach at people.
When I was a kid and had done something wrong, I was more fearful of the
sermon I was going to get from my father than any spanking or punishment I
might receive. And I think most people feel the same way.
Remember people learn more from a
model than a critic.
Although you think you're
"witty" or "clever" when you're being sarcastic, most
people won't see it that way. They'll be confused by your sarcasm and
wonder what you're "really" saying, and others will have their
feelings needlessly hurt.
It's like the county agent who was
visiting a farmer out in his pasture. As they were talking, the farmer's dog
grabbed a dried up cow pie in his mouth, shook it between his teeth and tossed
it away. He kept doing it over and over. "That's a rather odd way
for your dog to act, isn't it?" asked the county agent.
"No," said the farmer. "He bit a fellow from the IRS
this morning and he's trying to get the bad taste out of his mouth."
Now you may laugh at that, but if you work for the IRS you were
probably offended. So my point is ... be very careful about using
sarcasm. It's best used by trained professional comedians and I'm
guessing you don't fit into that category either.
Euphemisms are used to sugar-coat
things that are hard to say. And while that may sound nice, it's actually
very cruel ... because you're misleading people ... and in a sense saying
"you're not mature enough to handle the truth" ... or "I don't
have the guts to say what I really mean because I'm covering my own
For example, when the news media
reports "collateral damage" in the midst of a war story, they're not
making it clear that innocent people are being KILLED. When a politician
says we're going to have some "revenue enhancement," he or she
doesn't have the guts to say "we're going to be raising your taxes".
And when you're told Congress is getting a "waiver" from a new
piece of legislation, which may be the truth, they're glossing over the bigger
truth that you, the taxpayer, are going to pay for the personal bills of those
As the famous football coach Lou
Holtz put it, "Telling people what they need to hear is hard, so most
people choose not to do it. Truth is suppressed in deference to
feeling." And I would add, when the truth is suppressed, almost
everyone gets hurt ... eventually.
9. Jargon, Profanity, and
When you use jargon or use words
that are only understood by a small, select group of people, and when you use
those words when talking to others, you're being disrespectful. Whether
you know it or not, you're communicating the message that says, "I know
more than you do. I'm better than you. I'm an insider and you're a lowly
outsider." Of course, that may not be your intention, but often
times that's what the other person hears or interprets.
For example, I speak at company
meetings all the time where lots of people are coming from many different
departments. Before I speak, I'm often preceded by one or two company leaders
who give an update on some project at the company. The leader may say,
"Let me tell you about the QRS1010." When he finishes his
presentation thirty minutes later, half the audience is still wondering what is
Now I don't expect the leader to
stop using the jargon for my sake. I'm an outsider. But his or her
colleagues need to know what the leader is talking about if they ever hope to
achieve some sense of connection or partnership. So when it comes to jargon,
follow this rule. When in doubt, leave it out.
The same goes for slang and profanity.
Many people feel uncomfortable with profanity, and others will lose
respect for you. And I doubt you ever want that to happen. So leave
And slang is only understood by
those in your own small circle. When you use slang with other people,
you're creating unnecessary confusion. When I spoke in Japan, for
example, I told my audience I "needed to hit the road." Several
hands shot up in the audience. As one person asked, "Dr. Zimmerman,
we don't understand this strange custom in America. Please explain why
Americans feel the need to go outside and pound on the concrete in their
As a side note, according to TV
star Conan O'Brien, "A study in the 'Washington Post' says that women have
better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study:
Finally, if you're going to be a
better communicator, you need to avoid...
Make sure you are specific when
you tell people what you will do or what you expect them to do. Instead of
saying "as soon as possible" or "next week", say "I
will have it on Tuesday." You remove the doubt and possible
At the same time, avoid overly
complex words. Authors and columnists know that the clearest and most
effective words are at the level of 8th grade language. Sure, it's nice to show
everyone how smart you are by using big, fancy words, but if your goal is
absolutely clear communication, forget it. More often than not you'll be
better off when you use simple and strait forward language.
I like the way Mike Krzyzewski,
the most winning coach in NCAA Division I men's basketball history, puts it.
He says, "The culture of honesty is a culture I love. I tell
all our team members, 'We need to communicate in ways that are more direct than
most people are used to. We can only do this if we learn to tell the
Communication works for those who
work at it. But it doesn't work if you use any of these ten communication
Download the list of "The 10 Biggest Communication
Eliminate one of these ten communication blunders from your
communication behaviors this week ... and watch how much better things go for
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About the author:
As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional
speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman is focused on "transforming the people side of
business.” His keynotes and seminars are noted for high content, high energy,
and high involvement that transform people's lives and the companies where they
To learn more about his programs and products, or to
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Copyright© 2013 Zimmerman Communi-Care Network, Inc.
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's
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