Have you ever been in a conversation with one of your employees and found it hard to communicate with them?  Or, after you've had the conversation, it turns out there were misunderstandings that were not clarified, and led to further miscommunication down the road?

There were probably several factors to blame. Many times, without consciously knowing it, we set ourselves up for defeat when trying to effectively interact with another person. Whether it is on the phone or in person, there are some barriers we must eliminate if we are to be successful in our communication.

Here's some advice.

Close your door. Many times, without meaning to do so, other managers or employees can hamper your efforts to connect with the person with whom you are communicating by interrupting or disturbing your one-on-one conversations. By closing your door, you're sending clear message that your communication time with the people in your office is important no matter who they are.

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Turn away from your computer. If you have someone in your office or on the phone, put your computer on sleep mode or simply turn your chair away from it so you will not be distracted by what is on the screen. There is nothing more unprofessional and irritating than a person who is supposedly communicating with another, and continues to tap away on their computer keyboard. Research has proven that trying to do two things at one time only lessens the effectiveness of both activities.  Despite what you say, if you are not focusing on the other person, you are creating a solid barrier to good communication.

Don't play mind reader. Another suggestion is to stop thinking you know what the other person is going to say, or worse, preparing your response before you've heard everything the person has to say. Encourage the person to talk further, and clarify their message, by asking them questions that require more than a one-word response. Some examples:

  • How do you mean?
  • Then what happened?
  • Could you tell me more?

These kinds of questions allow the other person an opportunity to fill in all the details and make their communication more complete.

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Let people finish their own sentences. Another tip to prevent miscommunication comes from leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith. He reminds us to stop finishing other people’s sentences. Let’s face it – we've all done it, but the truth is no one likes to have their sentences finished for them. So, why do people continue to violate this rule? One excuse given is because they think they are saving time.  If anything, it wastes time because it can set up miscommunication by shutting the other person off from communicating everything they want to say and the way they want to say it.

Have an end-of-conversation recap. At the end of your conversation, ask for clarification about the communication between you and the other person. Clarify what you have heard, what you have said, and what actions you expect each of you to take. Using this approach can be a powerful tool in maximizing the results from each and every business conversation you have.

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