Communication Dos and Don'ts

It’s not just what you do, but what you don’t do that makes you a better communicator.


  • Interrupt speakers or finish their sentences for them. It’s a sure sign you’re not listening.
  • Argue with someone that’s angry. Let people express their frustration, then try discuss the issue calmly.
  • Forget to thank people when they share ideas.
  • Always assume it’s up to you to solve a problem.
  • Put people on the defensive. If there’s a problem, focus first on the solution, then on determine how to prevent it from happening again.


  • Paraphrase their statements, beginning with a phrase such as, “So what you’re saying is… .”
  • Ask questions to clarify the situation and demonstrate to the speaker that the message is not clear.
  • Use examples to illustrate your point.
  • Tell stories to support you message. This helps the speaker remember your point.
  • Watch for nonverbal clues to meaning.

Portions adapted from “Five Ways to Avoid Misunderstandings,” Terry Bragg, Occupational Hazards, July 1999.

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