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The Communication Glitch

When going about our day, we are constantly communicating, sending a multitude of messages to those around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, a look, the sound of our voice, the words in a text or email, and our body movements all deliver important messages. The way we interact with one another can bring about either a harmonious communication exchange or cause unease. While our daily interactions generally run smoothly without any issues, there are times when we need to address a communication challenge that unexpectedly arises.

In those instances when communication isn’t running smoothly, we need to take a step back to understand where the breakdown occurred. Sometimes catching a person at an inconvenient time can turn a situation that should go without issue into something that can cause tension between both parties. We can also be caught off-guard when either we or the other person misconstrues the message. The way in which these situations are managed will either allow for things to quickly get back on track, or they can be neglected and erode into long-term problems—the latter being something we of course want to avoid. Despite any hesitancy or extra time involved, overcoming communication barriers should be a priority.

It probably goes without saying that our ears can detect the most interesting things. For instance, subtleties reflected in the sound of a person’s voice during a phone call. Whether you are calling someone or you are within close range of hearing another phone conversation, do you notice how the other person sounds when they answer the phone? Do they sound happy to hear from the caller, or are they unenthused, or even irritated? In professional settings, hopefully we are all helping others feel at ease. It’s interesting how we can also detect nuances with those we interact with more regularly. We can hear the tone in their voice when they are enthusiastic or elated. We can also detect when they are tired, distracted, or if something seems to be bothering them. What about when you are the one answering the phone? Have you thought about the tone of your voice and what it is communicating?

There are other communication scenarios that can convey much meaning. Think about the way you or others do something as simple as making a self-introduction in a group setting. The simple act of introducing yourself and stating your name carries so much meaning! Add in what your body language is also saying, and you have just painted an impression in others’ minds. Self-introductions can be interpreted so many different ways: low self-esteem, high confidence, shyness, happiness, unimportance…you name it. Another scenario involves the way you engage when someone is speaking to you. Are you truly listening and making eye contact? Do you display an open or closed-off physical stance? This can certainly vary across different cultures, but recognizing such things can help us all determine what is customary and help us communicate in ways that are productive.

When was the last time you evaluated how others are interpreting your communication style? When students or colleagues need our help and knock on our office door, does our response make them feel welcome or like they are an interruption and a burden? Every interaction we have with them will leave some type of impression. If individuals have negative interactions throughout the years with you, that’s not the impression you want etched in their memory. It’s useful for us to consider these different situations since communication skills are something that we all get to work on every day, despite our age. All of our tendencies collectively contribute to our professional image, and we need to consider if what we do aligns with our intentions. Yes, we all have moments that flow more smoothly than others, but when we are fully engaged with those around us, whether it be with your child, a friend, a colleague, a student, a boss, or a total stranger, our words, the sound of our voice, and our body language can all be tools that allow us to connect in a positive way with others and contribute to a lifetime of successful relationships.


What have you noticed about communication skills through the years? Do you feel it is something that individuals are truly trying to improve, or do you feel it is something that is unintentionally being neglected?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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