Can the Way You Communicate Derail Your Career?


Discover the 4 Major Don’ts of Communication

Most people think that career advancement is only associated with professional experience and education. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. How you behave and, especially, how you communicate can determine your success. 

Unfortunately, effective communication courses are not a part of most education programs, although they should be. Communicating effectively has a direct correlation to how well you will do in your career and in life. 

The way we interact with others will help us build or break relationships and, by extension, opportunities. 

So, if you feel like you have the right experience and education, yet your career is stalling, maybe the way you communicate is the culprit. 

Effective Communication Skills

Every individual has their own intricate personality and way of expressing themselves (even not saying anything at all can become a form of communication in some cases). 

However, regardless of your personality type, there are ways of communicating that increase the chances of misunderstandings or even conflict. The good news is that, like most things in life, effective communication skills can be learned. 

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Meanwhile, here is a list of mistakes to avoid when communicating at work.

The 4 Don’ts of Communication

#1 – Don’t Listen Only to Reply

Communication is a two-way street. In business, like in life, you should listen to understand, not to reply. The worst communicators will make assumptions or even interrupt before taking the time to listen and understand the whole message. 


  • Listen and understand before you speak or write
  • Investigate, ask the speaker to elaborate
  • Paraphrase and restate the message

#2 – Don’t Underestimate the Power of Words

The expression says it best: “choose your words wisely”. 

Words have the power to lift your audience up or tear it down. Being vigilant with our choice of words can ensure that what we intend to communicate actually comes out right. 

The worst communicators tend to be vague or use a negative language to express themselves. 

Using the wrong words to express yourself can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Certain words can trigger a negative reaction in the mind of the receiver. Negative language can be blaming, demanding or emphasizes on what can’t be done. 


  • Think ahead about what you are going to say 
  • Use clear words
  • Avoid using unnecessary jargon 
  • Choose inclusive language (e.g. use “we” instead of “you” vs “me”)  
  • Choose positive language that focuses on the future, provides choices and emphasizes on what can be done. 

#3 – Don’t Ramble

Many people ramble for different reasons; because they are nervous, intimidated, unsecure or unprepared. Regardless of the reason why they ramble, their point quickly gets drowned out by all the fluff or powerless language that surrounds what they actually want to say. 

Rambling during a meeting or a presentation increases your chances of losing the listener’s interest, accidentally disclosing too much information or even looking unprepared and unprofessional.   

Overusing powerless language is also a form of ranting. Powerless language is excessively polite to the point that it can make the speaker seem powerless, uncertain or hesitant. 

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An example of this would be: “I’m sorry, I hope that I am not bothering you, I know how busy you are, but I was thinking that, if you are interested, maybe…” 

This type of introduction to whatever the speaker is awkwardly trying to ask would only frustrate the busy listener. 


  • Have a clear idea of the point you are trying to make before you start talking or writing 
  • Be concise and stick to one point at a time 
  • Take an occasional pause to quickly reorganize your thoughts
  • Mention only necessary details 

#4 – Don’t Send the Wrong Message

You don’t only communicate with words. Non-verbal communication is also key. 

Your overall behaviour, from your posture, your facial expressions, your tone of voice, the gestures you make or even the space you leave between you and your listener are all cues that send specific messages. 

Your body language can put people at ease and build trust, but it also offend, confuse or even undermine the message you are trying to deliver. 

Many people are so busy focusing on the message that they want to convey that they remain at the center of their own thoughts, neglecting to see that the listener is not comfortable, trying to reply or, worse, completely uninterested.  


  • Focus your attention on your listener 
  • Learn to recognize the clues that demonstrate your listener is at ease and is interested in what you are saying 
  • Make eye contact 
  • Keep track of your body language and your actions while you are conveying your message

Effective communication can be learned by anyone. Often, all it takes is to become aware of our way of communicating and making a few changes to improve the way our message is conveyed. 

If you are having trouble getting your message across or if you feel you are often misunderstood or unheard, consider signing up for a communication course. Improving your communication skills will be an invaluable investment in your professional and personal life.