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Common Communication Mistakes ... and How to Fix Them

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According to this year’s annual Job Outlook Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the top skill employers are seeking from 2013 grads is the “ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.” The same holds true regardless of how long ago you graduated.

The job-search process is all about communication. Sometimes it can be the “little things” that trip you up the most—inadvertent missteps that you’re making that you may not even be aware of. Fortunately, says Marvin Brown, an expert in business communication strategies and the author of How to Meet and Talk to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime: Simple Strategies for Great Conversations (Contact Strategies LLC, 2013), becoming a great communicator is a skill that can be learned. He offers some common communication pitfalls, along with tips on how to navigate around them:

Succumbing to lazy talk. Avoid the clichés or fillers that we repeat so often, we don’t hear ourselves saying them. Examples include “you know” and “like.” Using these words or phrases when clearer language would be more descriptive is lazy.

The fix: Imagine that your words have value, where vague and meaningless words are worthless, and specific, interesting words cost more. Make your speech more valuable by minimizing lazy speech.

Offering an opinion as fact. We’ve all been guilty of making declarations that sound as though they should be carved in stone.

The fix: To avoid being labeled a know-it-all, simply preface such statements with “It seems to me,” “I’ve come to believe” or “I think.”

Trying to be overly charming. Do you feel the need to tell jokes, throw around fancy words, and be the life of the office? Being overly charming can backfire.

The fix: Good conversationalists talk about plain, simple subjects when trying to get to know and get along with other people. Forget about being super eloquent, clever or pretentious. Keep your exchanges simple and direct. Trying to impress others will only come across as disingenuous and fake. It’s alienating to others.

Spoiling a compliment. Many of us have a difficult time accepting compliments. Two of the most common mistakes people make are contradicting the complimenter who tells you that you look great, “Nah, I’m a mess today,” or discounting their words by bouncing it right back, “You, too.”

The fix: Take it in, and let the other person know that their gesture of generosity is meaningful. Smile, and say something like, “Thanks! You made my day.”

As you continue your job search, be alert to the small ways that you may be inadvertently making a less-than-stellar impression. Then commit to recognizing and fixing these common communication missteps.

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