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The 8 Cardinal Mistakes of Communication

John Eric Jacobsen -- Poor communication skills can cause problem solving to falter, relationships to crumble, create hurt feelings, and violate rapport. Here's how to enhance your communication abilities, interact more effectively with others, and achieve greater personal and professional success.

Have you ever been involved in a conversation process that seemed to flow effortlessly as you and your party seamlessly exchanged information? On the other hand have you ever been involved in the same type of exchange and felt like you were beating a dead horse? The conversation seemed to be hitting a brick wall while you and your party had no rapport?

These terrible conversation traps happen all too often, especially in the business community. It seems that while we get caught up in our hectic, fast-paced day, the rules of effective communication get lost or forgotten. The most important rule I teach my students in our communications seminar is the importance of constantly reviewing and practicing "the basics."

My research into the communication field clearly demonstrates that there are 8 cardinal mistakes made in communication. Although they are common sense, they seem to have been forgotten. These 8 mistakes can cause problem solving to falter, relationships to crumble, hurt feelings, and violate rapport. Let's review all 8, and as a rule of thumb try to keep them "sacred" as we interact with others on a personal and professional level. My goal in this article is to enhance your communication abilities and at the same time make you shine in front of others.

1. Not listening

Notice that this mistake is listed at number one. It is a very common error for your mind to wander occasionally and for you to lose track of what someone was saying. For this mistake you politely apologize and move on. Deliberately not paying attention will cause a massive problem in your relationships. The most important goal of a communication process is to exchange information and at the same time build stronger relationships. If your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, make the big sale, mediate conflict, or build better relationships with your family -- became a better listener.

2. Interrupting

This mistake is easily resolved by simply re-learning our manners. It's not polite to interrupt others while they are speaking. It demonstrates that you are a poor listener with a damaged self-esteem. It demonstrates your lack of concern for the person speaking, and also sends a signal to others that you are rude. This mistake will cause you to lose credibility quickly!

3. Criticism in public

This is one of the fastest ways to annihilate your credibility, destroy your integrity, violate rapport, and lose friends. Please remember what I'm about to say now because it's crucial: "Even if you are God Almighty, you have no right, nor the authority to criticize any human being in public." Anyone who has had any basic training in people skills understands that all criticism MUST be done in private. Criticism must also be carried out with a goal to build the person's self esteem, while at the same time correcting a behavior. Therefore, during a criticism process keep your focus on the behavior or situation, never the person or personality traits.

4. Sarcasm & ridicule

Where criticism is usually aimed at a personal behavior; sarcasm and ridicule is usually a negative remark made directly about the person. It is always rude and used to create some type of mockery, harm, or hurt feelings. If your communication goal is to create interconnectedness, rapport, and build self-esteem, then avoid sarcasm & ridicule at all costs -- especially in public.

5. Talking down

Like sarcasm, ridicule, and criticism; this is another cardinal communication problem. It sends a message to the listener that you are smarter or more intelligent than they are. It conveys that you are above them in every way, while at the same time hurts feelings. The most important thing to remember is that talking down also conveys the message that your self-esteem is severely damaged. There are two ways to have the tallest building in the city: First -- build the tallest building, or second -- knock everyone else's building down. How do you want to be remembered -- as a builder or a destroyer?

6. Pompous word usage

Large words used in a conversation that you know the listener will not understand. These include all types of jargon, slang, lingo and "50 cent words used in a 10 cent conversation." Pompous word usage is one of the fastest ways to turn a listener off. It creates a terrible separation between you and your listener. There are two types of people who use pompous words: First is the person who is so highly educated they know of no other way to express themselves. Second is the person who is simply trying to impress you. Remember it is extremely obfuscating to promulgate any type of complex or lengthy lexicon.

7. Gossip

I was brought up to never talk about anyone behind their back. Never say anything about anyone that you would not say to their face. Most of all when you gossip about others, you are not defining them, you are defining yourself as someone who needs to gossip. And everyone who has witnessed your gossip now knows you are "that" type of person. The avoidance of gossip does nothing but make you look good!

8. Making yourself more important than the listener

As far as I'm concerned, this final cardinal mistake of communication neatly sums up the last seven. You are well on your way to rock solid communication skills and healthy relationships if you approach everyone as if they are your equal. The fact is -- they are!

I mentioned earlier that the most important rule I teach my students in our communications seminar is the importance of constantly reviewing and practicing "the basics." Doing the "opposite" of these 8 are the basics. It's proper and polite conversation at its finest. Remember to keep them "sacred" as we interact with others on a personal and professional level.

I wish you luck & success!

John Eric Jacobsen was born to teach and destined to be a writer & motivator. In 1985 John founded Jacobsen Business Programs, Inc., a corporate seminar company helping people to succeed personally and professionally. John's experience is what sets him apart. With a diverse background in business, sales, communications, theatrical arts, dance and acting; John has the unique ability to not only be a great teacher, but also an amazing entertainer who can keep your attention. He has trained and worked with over a half a million people and has performed or taught all over America on stage and on TV. John has also authored the national seller, Conversations on Customer Service & Sales. This is an amazing work designed to help businesses improve their sales and enhance consumer relations. John is proud to have the great Brian Tracy as a co-author. Visit his site at:

© 2013 John Eric Jacobsen

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