Habitual mistakes in business communication

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By Goke Ilesanmi


    Effective communication is critical to the success of any business. Effective communication in business is not just about creating the perfect PowerPoint presentation, nor writing the perfectly-pitched report. Sometimes, communicating effectively in business can hinge on something really simple—the habits you bring to your interactions with others.


As we all know, we all have habitual behaviour that we carry around with us and use unconsciously. It could be the use of the space-filler “um”, which we sandwich between every fourth word of our presentation or the nervous “fig-leaf” gestures of our hands. It could be the constant swaying and looking away from our audience, as if we should be somewhere else far more important right at that moment. Whoever you are, while you may know your facts inside out, while your work ethics are the standard by which others are measured, if you do not recognise and work on your personal communication habits, you might eventually destroy all that you have strived to achieve.


Whatever your particular habit is, you can best find out what it is by two great methods: ask your colleagues what you do in face-to-face encounters that annoys them and have someone video a presentation that you give to a group. We all have a communication habit that works against us in some way. But the challenge we face is that, if left unaddressed, the challenge will start adding up. The more you have, the more unprofessional you look.

Weak handshake

A weak handshake constitutes one of the interpersonal business communication blunders that can affect you and your business negatively over time. This is because a weak handshake signals uncertainty, lack of integrity, lack of confidence and lack of courage. It quite possibly also triggers subconscious responses in the recipient that cause them to focus more and for longer on your handshake than on your message.

Displaying a nervous giggle

Another mistake is to display a nervous giggle. Doing this in the presence of your audience naturally makes you perceived as immature and drives people away from you because you will be seen as a child.

Being over-apologetic

Over-using “I’m sorry”, for instance, undermines your authority. An expression such as “I need your report on my desk by 10 o’clock, sorry” just knocks off your professionalism, your communication and your career. You do not need to apologise if you are the boss or the client. There is a place for politeness in business, as there are for courtesy and humility. But in the world of nature and business, there is no room for the weak and mousy.

Standing passively

Another mistake is to stand passively. Crossed arms and legs are a reflection of just one thing—detachment, as if you really do not want to be there, listening to the other person, but you have to. Passively standing waters down the level of your trust, over time reducing your career reputation to rubble.

Avoiding eye contact

Avoiding eye contact constitutes yet another business communication blunder. While too much staring at someone can cause discomfort, so can too little. By not looking at your audience (of one or of one thousand) in the eye, you come across as nervous and insincere. A reasonable period of eye contact is between 4 and 7 seconds at a time, per person, especially when you are talking to them.

Playing with your hands

    Another business communication mistake is to play with your hands. Wringing your hands is a sure way of conveying insecurity about yourself or your message. A communication expert once said that he was reminded by his Toastmasters Club colleagues of a habit of his that he needed to break—twisting his wedding ring around his finger whenever he was presenting. His colleagues found themselves focusing more on his ring-twiddling than his message.

Speaking too softly

    Speaking too softly constitutes yet another business communication blunder. This is a habit that is a sure sign in the eyes of others, that you are not confident about yourself, your message or your authority to deliver it. You come across as near-invisible, weak and insubstantial, as well as make yourself difficult to be heard by those who are hard of hearing.

Wrongly qualifying words

      Qualifying words wrongly is quite possibly one of the worst habits anyone could have. Absolutely, nearly everyone qualifies his or her words, and most often the effect is to dilute the power and impact of your message. Seriously, using words such as “kind of”, “sort of” and “maybe” make even the smartest of us appear unsure.

NOTE: The duration of the public speaking seminar has been greatly reduced as requested, in addition to other adjustments. You will find the programme on the right side at the upper part of my website. Click on the text and see details. I appreciate your suggestions and requests.


GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of https://www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.


Tel: +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425

Email:  gokeiles2010@gmail.com; info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng


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