Worried You’re A Bad Communicator? 11 Signs You Need To Step It Up

Self-reflection plays a role in problem-solving.

An examination of your thoughts and behavior could reveal whether or not you're contributing to your problems. 

In the case of communication difficulties, you may wonder why your conversations fail to produce the desired results. 

You may feel unheard or misunderstood.

Perhaps arguments start when you had no intention of causing conflict

If bad communication skills are sabotaging your life, then identifying your mistakes will help you adopt better communication strategies.

What is a Poor Communicator?

People with poor communication skills may struggle for many reasons, including fear of conflict, impatience, or being raised by people with weak communication habits.

Whatever the sources of the malfunctions, certain behaviors indicate weak communication.

couple sitting at table talking signs of a poor communicator

Because successful communication during conflict is so vital, university researchers looked at how bad communication patterns impacted relationships. The most destructive forms of communication contain:

  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness

When people exhibit these behaviors, they make conflict resolution almost impossible. They usually worsen the problem by reducing the chance of a productive conversation.

These patterns hurt people's feelings and don’t allow either party to address the heart of the problem.

Poor Communication Skills Examples

Business and communications writer Preston Ni, author of the publications “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People” and “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People,” provides many examples of harmful communication.

Statements from his books illustrate how contempt, criticism, and defensiveness poison conversations.

Example 1: “You never know what you're doing.” Such a statement shows contempt by attacking a person's competence in all situations.

Example 2: “You did a really stupid thing.” This statement criticizes a person who may have been seeking sympathy and help.

Example 3: “That's not true.” A defensive statement like this shifts the communication into an argument about facts instead of the results.

11 Signs Someone Is Bad At Communicating

If you're showing any signs of bad communication in a relationship, then you have room for improvement.

Teaching yourself to communicate more thoughtfully could spare you from arguments and strengthen your relationships.

1. You don't pay attention to the person talking to you.

You communicate disinterest when you allow yourself to be distracted by your phone, the television, or other people.

couple talking on bed signs of a poor communicator

Good communicators set aside their phones and tune out other distractions so that they can give their attention to a speaker.

2. You use universal statements.

A universal statement describes saying something that sounds like it applies at all times to the person. “You never do what I ask” is a universal statement. 

This type of sweeping language labels someone with an absolute trait. In reality, the person might honor requests occasionally. The result is that a person feels incapable of receiving credit for any good actions.

3. You assume you know what the other person means.

This habit is hostile to a positive relationship. You might project a conclusion based on your feelings instead of what someone actually intended. 

Making assumptions blocks your ability to consider a person's explanation. You will have a hard time achieving understanding when you close yourself off to new information.

4. You often interrupt people.

This bad pattern could tie in with making assumptions. You may assume you know what someone means and want to skip over the long explanation.

If that's not what's motivating you to interrupt, you are probably a poor listener

You focus too much on what you want to say and can't wait for your turn to speak. When you interrupt people too much, they learn to stop talking to you because you're not listening.

5. You are unwilling to compromise.

A good portion of communication involves reaching compromises. The subject could be minor, such as where to order dinner, but you remain unwilling to budge. 

Everyone has occasions when they can't compromise, but relationships depend on balancing both people's needs. 

To overcome your rigid attitude, think about why you are so attached to getting your way in a particular situation. Does the issue truly deserve your unwavering commitment?

6. You don't ask good questions.

You may be a good listener and pleasant to interact with. However, your communications with others fall short because you do not ask questions to gain increased understanding.

couple talking in living room signs of a poor communicator

Good communicators go beyond common questions like, “How are you?”

To get the most from conversations, you should probe for more information. Open-ended questions like, “What challenges are you facing?” invite a person to provide more information about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

If you feel like your understanding of a situation is shallow, don't exit the conversation. Keep asking questions. Your difficult communication experiences in the past may be the result of rushing things.

7. You like to play the “whataboutism” card.

Whataboutism is a defensive technique meant to deflect complaints, accusations, or demands for action.

For example, if your partner says, “Why didn't you do the dishes?” you say, “What about vacuuming the car? You said you would vacuum the car.” 

When you do this, you're refusing to take accountability. This refusal is a toxic move because it torpedoes any chance of a positive conversation about the original topic.

8. You ask for permission when you shouldn't.

Ineffective communication is filled with phrases like, “Would it be OK if…” or “Would you mind if I did…” 

These phrases set you up for failure because they give the other person a chance to tell you no. The result is poor communication because you didn't get what you wanted. 

Try to strengthen your communication skills by stating your desires and explaining why they matter to you.

9. You focus on the person instead of the issue.

A conversation typically has a topic, like where you want to go on vacation or who should take the kids to soccer practice. 

If you dislike what someone proposes to you, try to stop yourself from attacking the person. A stated goal or opinion does not represent that person's entire personality or worth. 

When you focus on the person, you can lapse into unfair criticism. To improve communication, you should consider the topic without judging the whole person.

10. You dismiss other people's feelings.

Your poor communication can sometimes upset people. You may assume that someone would appreciate your joke, but when that person tries to explain that you were rude, you try to shut down the conversation by saying, “Oh, come on, can’t you take a joke?” 

This tactic invalidates a person's feelings and effectively destroys connection with others.

You go beyond not being receptive to the conversation. You refuse to accept the premise of the conversation as real. 

Never dismiss someone's feelings because you don't get to determine the reality of other people's emotions.

11. You think people should know what you want.

Relationships can deteriorate into hurt feelings and unmet needs when people refuse to say what's bothering them or what they want. 

You may be concealing the information because you long for the other person to recognize your distress. Unfortunately, people cannot read minds. You could spare yourself much difficulty by expressing your complaint clearly.

signs you are a bad communicator

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How Do You Deal with a Poor Communicator?

You may not be able to change people, but you can help them. When you get frustrated by a poor communicator, you can lean on some techniques to get you through a rough conversation.

Not all inferior communicators are the same. Some avoid conversation. To aid tight-lipped people, you can:

  • Be respectful of their time and emotions.
  • Precisely explain what you need to know or want.
  • Ask questions to draw out more information.
  • Write a note because some people absorb written communication better than spoken words.

For bad communicators who are prone to defensiveness, emotional outbursts, or interruptions, you need to:

  • Politely assert your right to speak.
  • Steer conversations back to the topic.
  • Calmly ask for the person's attention.
  • Explain the importance of the topic.
  • Emphasize that you're not attacking the person.
  • Ask to focus on solutions.

Respond Instead of React

Your emotional reaction could make someone give up on trying to convey something important.

Too much of what comes out of our mouths is an instant reaction. Better communication requires strategy and reasonable expectations. 

Communication follows a formula of listening, thinking, and then responding. Any misfires in this system can hurt feelings and make solutions elusive. Going forward, monitor what you say. 

Every time you catch yourself using poor communication skills, choose to pursue understanding by accepting other people's emotions and showing genuine curiosity about what they have to share.