The Mixed Signals Affecting Your Career

We live in a world of perpetual communication. On average, men use more than 13,000 words a day and women use nearly three times that amount. We also send and receive information through nonverbal messages such as our body language, posture, facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact. Appearance, style of speech, and voice inflection can further communicate information to others. We communicate at work, at home, in social settings, through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, through e-mail, blogs, instant messaging, phones, and more, all at an ever quickening pace.

What’s Your Message Saying?

We have a million things to say, and a million ways to say it, but with all that communication, the signals we send can get mixed. Sending mixed signals is sometimes unavoidable and is almost always done subconsciously, but could your mixed signals be hurting your career? What you convey verbally and nonverbally, and how you convey it can affect the way employers and co-workers perceive you. If you’re waiting on a promotion, worrying that you’re striking out during a job interview, or feeling misunderstood at work, it could be that you’re sending the wrong messages.

Understanding Misunderstandings

Misinterpretation is inevitable. Maybe your co-workers interpret your tendency to be introverted as you being cold or standoffish instead of just shy. Perhaps your enthusiasm, excitement, and passion at work make others feel overwhelmed or intimated. A relaxed personality can be interpreted as a lack of drive or just laziness. In your career and in life, it’s imperative to be aware of what you’re communicating and how that communication is received. To know what you’re communicating, you have to see yourself as others see you.

Know Thy Communication Pitfalls

Thomas Fuller once said, “No man is the worst for knowing the worst of himself.” So, while it may be uncomfortable, even a little painful, to learn you have a habit of talking over people and it’s driving your co-workers insane, or that your focused eye contact frightens the administrative assistant until she avoids you like she would a basilisk, knowing you have a disconnect in communication is half the battle. Soliciting feedback from others can equip you with the information you need to communicate more effectively. So ask a co-worker, mentor, respected leader, friend, or even the employer who choose not to hire you to provide feedback on the messages you send, and use that information to adapt your communication styles so you can be more clearly understood.  You never know, what may seem like a small change could make all the difference. Maybe your next interview will be a home run, the next promotion a sure thing, or at the very least, maybe that administrative assistant won’t cower in fear from your death stare every time you enter the room.


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