Sometimes, we’re aware of our weaknesses. Perhaps more often, we’re not.
That may be because we’ve never received straightforward, accurate feedback – a factor that’s especially true for executives as they rise to positions where reports are less willing to critique them honestly. It may be because overlooking our flaws is easier than confronting them.
Regardless, communicating well means learning to navigate through and past communication weaknesses. To do that requires that we uncover our communication weaknesses.
It’s not easy. In fact, it can be intimidating. But the reality is that nobody is perfect, and there’s power in vulnerability. We’ve worked with top-level executives at major corporations who have come to realize their inability to engage audiences. We’ve worked with rising leaders to identify and overcome timidity in communication.
Everyone has weaknesses. Identifying your shortcomings is the first step toward improving.
So, don’t stay blind to your communication weaknesses; putting your head in the sand will only hinder your career, your ability to perform your job, and, ultimately, even your relationships.
Communication skills are essential in nearly any position, and anyone can learn the techniques that are necessary to communicate well. Instead of staying intentionally ignorant, take stock of your skills, seek out accurate feedback, and pursue avenues toward improvement.
It can be an intimidating endeavor. But you don’t have to go it alone – we’re here to help. And as you identify your weaknesses, you’ll grow as a communicator.
Ready to get started?
The Signs You May Need to Improve as a Communicator
Unsure whether or not you have a communication weakness worth addressing? Let’s start by identifying a few of the common flags that signify potential issues.
Often, these signals won’t appear independently; if your communication skills require significant improvement, you’ll tend to see a few of these signals pop up repeatedly.
1. You see glazed eyes when you present.
We’ve all been there at some point: in the middle of a presentation, only to look around the room and see nodding heads, glazed eyes, and a general state of complete disinterest.
Glazed eyes are generally not a good sign.
Now, by no means can you expect to consistently capture and maintain the full attention of everyone in every room you present in. In today’s age of cell phone distractions, that’s practically impossible. But if, more often than not, people seem to zone out when you start speaking, it’s a surefire sign your presentation skills can be improved.
2. People are always asking you for more information.
If you find yourself consistently being asked for more information, it’s a sign you may need to work on improving your communication skills.
For example, if you lead a meeting where you present what you feel are the key points, only to be bombarded with questions asking for additional information, you’ve likely misaligned your message with your audience’s needs. This is often a side effect of shaping a presentation around a data-heavy PowerPoint, as opposed to crafting a message around integral issues using story-based examples.
There will always be questions – and that’s a good thing, in terms of discussion and engagement. Questions themselves aren’t a problem. It is a problem, though, if you’re consistently asked to elaborate on mission-critical information that you should have addressed to start.
3. People ask about things you’ve already said.
Along those lines: it’s a problem if you’re consistently receiving questions around information you’ve already presented.
If that’s the case, you may be presenting too much information for people to process. Or, you may be presenting information unclearly. Either way, you likely have a communication issue.
4. You’re afraid.
Are you afraid of public speaking? If you are, you’re not alone – public speaking is the most common fear, after all. But there’s a good chance that you may need to work on your speaking skills.
Some level of anxiety is expected, even for veteran presenters. That feeling is akin to the nerves an athlete gets before competition: the anticipation that accompanies a big stage and an intense performance. It can even play a role in driving energy and engagement.
But if you’re dealing with debilitating fear when it’s time to present, you could almost certainly benefit from presentations training.
If you’re willing to acknowledge it and focus on confronting it, take heart: you can overcome your fear.
5. Most of your communication interactions create frustration.
This sign may seem a bit more subjective; it may also be more difficult for you to identify yourself. But, if a majority of your communication interactions result in a frustrated party, you probably have an issue worth working on.
Your own frustration is easy enough to gauge. Do you feel consistently consternated by people’s inability to comprehend your messages? Are you often impatient with how long it’s taking you to get your point across? If you’re frustrated, the issue is more obvious.
Sometimes, though, you may be unaware of the frustration you’re causing others when you communicate. You may be unintentionally condescending. You may be unknowingly impatient. You may appear disinterested without knowing it.
Uncovering these issues may require seeking out accurate feedback from the people you regularly interact with. Hearing critiques of your communication may not be easy, but acknowledging feedback is better than keeping your head in the sand and causing unnecessary frustration to those around you.
6. People avoid communicating with you.
Finally, you likely have a communication weakness if people avoid communicating with you.
For instance: if you communicate with a direct report on a project, only to have them ask somebody else come to you to ask for clarification, you may be unknowingly discouraging others from being open with you.
If your team seems to tiptoe around issues, or if they get tight-lipped in interactions with you, you may have an issue.
Don’t ignore it. Dig into it. People will appreciate your vulnerability, and you’ll be able to take steps toward improvement.
What to Do Next
So, you’ve identified a communication issue. What do you do next?
The answer: start working to improve. Although you can attempt to navigate around weaknesses – for instance, by trying to avoid public speaking as much as possible – the reality is that you’ll almost always be better served by taking steps toward growth.
Because, ultimately, our careers and personal lives are built on relationships, and our relationships are built on communication. Ignoring a problem, even if it seems possible, is nearly always unwise.
Again, the good news is that everyone has communication weaknesses. From entry level employees to Fortune 100 CEOs, everyone has room to improve. And anyone can improve, by learning the skills and techniques of good communication.
We can help. With decades of experience helping individuals improve their communication skills, we’ve seen it all – and we’ve seen people like you grow past weakness with training and practice.
Are you ready to uncover your communication weaknesses and become a better communicator? We’d love to hear from you.