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The World's Worst Communicator!

By Edward Leigh, MA

Great communication skills are an asset in so many areas of our lives. However, poor skills can wreak havoc in our lives. There are three family acquaintances that have very weak skills. If you put these three people together as one person, they would be, "The World's Worst Communicator."

In my communication skills workshops, I discuss the three people and attendees always ask for more details. Here is a brief discussion of these three people. As an FYI, these are not their real names: Peter (early 50s, single, elementary school teacher), Mitch (late 60s, married, retired physician) and Steve (early 50s, single, engineer).

Poor Listening Skills

Good listeners engage in a dialogue in which both parties actively listen and respond to each other's comments. Good communication is like a tennis game, in which players have to respond to what the other person is doing in the court. Poor communicators simply wait for the other person to finish speaking so they could continue on with their own agenda. They engage in a monologue – even with other people! It is like the playing tennis, but never responding to other person's serves.

Here is an example involving Peter. He discusses his life, but never asks about anyone else's experiences. He will rarely respond to what other people say. For example, Mitch told me he just got back from a trip to Nashville. I asked about his trip and then told him about my recent trip to Chicago. He looked at me silently for a moment and then continued the discussion of his Nashville trip. A good communicator would have asked about my Chicago trip.

Know-it-all Attitude

Mitch is an authority on every subject; at least that is what he thinks. Regardless of the subject, he will know the answer. He is always right and you are always wrong. I told him about a trip to New Orleans. I mentioned visiting the Cafe Du Monde for beignets and café au lait. He insisted I did not pronounce the word, beignet, correctly. I told him I am pronouncing the word correctly. I told him the people at the Cafe Du Monde told me of the correct pronunciation. He still insisted I was wrong. I asked him if he ever visited New Orleans. He changed the subject!

Lack of Appreciation

People with poor communications skills fail to show gratitude for kind acts. We went to a party at Peter's home. We called ahead of time to see what food item we could bring. Peter said to bring an appetizer. We brought his brother's favorite item, salsa and chips. We gave Peter the appetizer and he said, "Oh great, more salsa and chips." Obviously, he had plenty salsa and chips, but Peter should have not have verbalized that fact. He should have simply stated, "Thank you for bringing the appetizer."

People with great communication skills have an "attitude of gratitude." A kind word goes a long way; this was instilled in me at a young age. When I was a child, after my birthday parties, I was not allowed to play with my gifts until the thank you notes were written FIRST. My mother wanted me to learn the value of saying, "Thank you."

No Respect for the Opinions of Others

Good communicators respect the fact that different people have different opinions. They may not agree with everyone, but they respect their right to have an opinion. Poor communicators put down other people who don't agree with them.

For example, Peter saw that my wife and I have Blackberry phones. He said, "Those phones are not good. I have an iPhone which is far superior." If he was a good communicator, he would have said, "Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, however I feel the iPhone is best for me."

Just Plain Rude!

Steve is a single person and often states he has trouble getting dates. When he does date it seems there is never a second date. I wonder why? Here is why – he is so unpleasant! He told us he went on a date and met the woman at a restaurant. The date mentioned she used MapQuest to find the restaurant and Steve stated, "Only idiots use MapQuest."

Mitch was at a dinner party and took a sip of wine and yelled, "This wine is horrible!" The hostess of the party was horrified! If Mitch was a good communicator he would have taken the hostess aside and privately told her, "This wine doesn't tastes right. I wanted you to know. Is there another bottle you can serve guests?"

Lack of Ownership

The three people discussed in this article have few friends. They have alienated most of the people in their lives; even their relatives do not want to be around them! When you ask about their friends, they will say something like, "I do not speak to Barbara any more. She only cares about herself. She is not a good person." It is always the others person's fault. They never take ownership for the fact that their own behavior destroys their relationships.

Closing Thoughts

Most people think they are good communicators and would never do anything like the three men in this article. The three men in this article are extreme cases, yet I see people do almost everything these men do, yet in subtle ways. For example, I observe conversations all the time in which people are not listening to the other person – they are simply waiting for the other person to finish talking so they could go on with their own agenda.

You have experienced the worst communicators. Your goal is work hard to be the best communicator!

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