Workplace Miscommunication: “You Offended Me!”

Using DISC assessments to settle or pre-empt workplace miscommunication can go a long way. However, there are some general communication dos and dont’s that it helps to keep in mind. Leadership expert and business coach, Tammy Holyfield covers her top FIVE recommendations for avoiding workplace miscommunication in this week’s Platinum Rules for Success story!

Workplace Miscommunication: “You Offended Me!”

by Tammy Holyfield

How many times a day do you find yourself saying…“That’s not what I meant to say.” A large part of success is determined by our ability to communicate effectively with others. Many times what you are trying to say isn’t heard the way you intended. There is power in the words we use, as well as the delivery of those words or our communication style. You might remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is far from the truth. The five tips below are designed to improve your communication skills. Choose Your Words We might not always be aware that some of the words we use are poison. It has been said that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Words such as “should,” “must,” “have to” and “ought to” can leave us feeling manipulated. People generally respond to this by withdrawing and shutting down the lines of communication. Skilled communicators are aware of the effect of the words they use. We reap what we sow, even in dialogue. When we speak positively, we reap positive rewards. When we speak encouragingly, we receive encouragement. The opposite is true as well. Not only do words hurt, but they also can carry consequences. Some hold onto words and comments spoken until it becomes a belief. It is advantageous to choose our words and speak carefully to each other, as well as to ourselves.

Listen to Understand Effective communicators listen primarily to understand the other person’s viewpoint. Most people listen while thinking of their reply, and don’t take the time and effort to listen to understand. When we listen to understand, we have greater influence with others and are able to solve complex problems with clarity and speed. A recent study identified the benefits for those who learn to listen. Good listeners are more respected because they have demonstrated concern for others. They also are better informed because active listening results in greater learning. On the contrary, people who do not listen well find few who are willing to share useful information with them. Listening to understand is listening without your own agenda. It has been called listening with your heart, or empathic listening. When using this communicative technique, you reflect what a person is saying and feeling in your own words and are not listening to advise, fix, or judge. The quickest way to defuse a hostile communication is by listening to the other person with the intent to understand them. Being heard instantly builds confidence and trust. A Proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So why is it so difficult to listen? We think four times faster than we can speak, so it takes concentrated patience to listen. When our thoughts race ahead of what is being said, we can get sidetracked and miss important information. One way to improve the odds of listening attentively is to lean forward and focus on the person speaking.

Replace Advice with Questions Instead of advising—or assuming you know the answer—ask a question. This will bring clarity to a conversation. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” and they encourage the speaker to expand on his or her thoughts. Being genuinely curious will affirm your interest in the person and topic.

Expect Value The best communicators are expecting to hear something great. They are optimistic listeners who expect the speaker to have something beneficial to say. They hang on every word and expect to find truth, insight, and wisdom.

Read the Signs Communication includes what is being said, as well as what is not being said. Words we use make up only about 7 percent of what is being communicated, while 38 percent is how we say it through tone and style, and the remaining 55 percent is body language and nonverbal expressions. A lot can be observed from paying attention to the other person’s posture and facial expressions. Slowing down, choosing words, asking questions, taking the time to listen with the intent to understand, expecting value to be spoken and reading the signs will serve well in communicating with others.

From the Coach: The quickest way to defuse a hostile communication is by listening to the other person with the intent to understand them. Being heard instantly builds confidence and trust. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Ask Yourself: How well do I listen? Do I listen to understand the other person or do I listen to respond?

Contact us at to learn more about how we can help your people enhance their communication effectiveness and increase tolerance in the workplace using DISC. We also run DISC Accreditation, Certification and Refresher courses for HR teams or Managers to establish your own in-house DISC education support and resource.