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10 Biggest Communication Mistakes You May Not Know You’re Making

Good communication is necessary for every aspect of life. It’s important to communicate effectively at home, at school, at work, with family, friends, and romantic partners. Good communication is what creates peace and harmony in our lives. It’s what makes us able to talk through conflict quickly and productively. It’s what stops us from feuding endlessly with our loved ones. Communication mistakes can certainly influence relationships. 

Good communication makes the world go round, yet practicing healthy and mindful communication does not come easily at all. It’s not something that we learn in school, and often we don’t learn proper communication at home. Many of us pick up some bad communication habits without even realizing it! These communication blunders can cause issues in dating, marriage, and other interpersonal relationships.

Learning what common communication mistakes are and how to fix them can lead you to a life of contentment. Effective communication will be especially helpful in your marriage or relationship. Through practice and self-awareness, it’s possible to correct any communication issues you may be having in your life!

Common Communication Mistakes

Avoiding difficult conversations

It’s inevitable to come across tough situations where a difficult conversation is in order. The two options are having the tough conversation even though it’s difficult or not having the tough conversation and developing growing resentment instead. When you don’t face a situation head-on, it can cause negative feelings to brew and make the conversation even harder to carry out.

Avoiding difficult conversations is a huge communication mistake, and it’s also one of the most common. It’s normal to want to avoid conflict and keep the peace. Sometimes keeping the peace means that you have to get aggressive about an issue before things worsen. You notice your partner has not been pulling their fair share of weight around the house, and you’ve been left with a lot more of the cleaning duties. It isn’t easy to admit that you’re tired and overworked, and you just feel like the relationship isn’t fair. What’s worse, though?

Try approaching the difficult situation with mindfulness and focusing on how the issue has affected you. Avoid communication that relies on blaming the other person or tearing the other person down. It’s also best to approach a difficult conversation in a neutral setting and when the issue isn’t present. Imagine enjoying your morning coffee together, and you say, “Hey, can I talk to you about something? I noticed I’m doing a lot more chores lately, and it’s making me feel like the relationship is unequal.” It’s less likely to be an argument if the issue is brought up in a relaxed environment!

Becoming overly emotional in conversation

There’s a big difference between expressing your emotions in conversation and letting your emotions take complete control. It means that when your emotions take over you, and suddenly you’re incapable of reason, you’ve become emotional to not communicating effectively. This is considered one of the top communication mistakes because being overly emotional could lead got shutting down or lashing out.

When you’re arguing with your partner and become overwhelmed with anger, you may resort to name-calling or tearing your partner down. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, you’ve become so angry that you can’t think rationally, so you lash out at your partner and worsen the situation. One of the biggest signs of poor communication in relationships is becoming overly emotional when in conflict.

When you become overwhelmed with emotion and lash out at your partner or shut down altogether, your partner will be less willing to want to discuss this issue with you in the future. An important communication technique to learn is being able to step away from conflict. If you become overly emotional, it’s okay to take 20 minutes to take some deep breaths and collect yourself to try talking it out again.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a difficult communication mistake. In conversation, it means shutting down and refusing to interact with your partner. You may feel overwhelmed by conflict and tend to stonewall, or you may use it as a tactic to disengage from the communication. Another one of the most common communication mistakes is to engage in stonewalling because it just makes communication impossible. If you’re arguing with your partner and suddenly you completely shut down and refuse to talk to them, you’re not exactly helping the issue. Stonewalling makes conflict worse because nothing gets resolved when one person decides to stonewall the other. Stonewalling your partner can make them feel unheard, frustrated, and abandoned. 

To avoid completely stonewalling your partner, it’s good to tell your partner when you’re about to shut down. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, let your partner know! In this situation, the best thing you can do is communicate how you’re feeling and express your needs. If you need to address conflict differently, you can go to separate rooms and write letters to each other about how you’re feeling. When you tend to stonewall, you can use the opportunity to get creative with your communication techniques. 

Reacting instead of responding

Similar to becoming overly emotional in conversation, reacting instead of responding is a major communication issue. Good communication takes thoughtfulness, rationality, introspectiveness, and honesty. When you have knee-jerk reactions in the communication, you’re essentially throwing good communication out the window.

Reacting lacks thought, rationality, and introspection because since you react so immediately, you cannot think through a proper response. It can look like shutting your partner down immediately when they bring up an issue. Reacting instead of responding can also look like making excuses, blaming, or becoming angry instead of thinking critically about what a healthy response to the conflict would be. When you are reactionary in conversation, you appear to lack self-control.

To be less reactionary and have more self-control in conversation, try practicing active listening. To be a good active listener, you must focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk – that’s a quick way to lose control and react instead of respond. Face the other person and make good eye contact. Take a moment to think about what they’ve said and how you’d like to respond. You can also say, “I’m just thinking about what you said,” to give yourself the space to be more thoughtful. This will help you react less and respond more.

Not asking questions

Many people communicate with others by relating topics of conversation to themselves. This seems like a natural flow of conversation, but it can make you look self-centered and disinterested in what the other person is saying. If your partner is telling you about their day and you relate everything they say back to what happened in your day, they may not feel like you’re listening to them at all. Even if you have good intentions, you will come across as self-centered. Not asking any questions makes it clear to your partner that you just want to talk about yourself. 

If you want effective communication in relationships, try asking more questions. You can start with simple remarks followed by questions such as, “Oh, that’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?” Or, “Wow, how did that make you feel?” As you get better at asking simple questions, you can start to ask more probing questions. A probing question might sound like, “You mentioned that you went to the mall today; which stores did you go to?” Followed by, “Did you buy anything?” Asking questions is a simple and easy communication technique that makes your partner (and everyone else in your life!) feel like you truly care about them and are interested in what they say.

Being closed-minded

One of the fastest ways to turn people off in conversation is to be closed-minded about concepts, ideas, and beliefs that differ from your own. When you’re married or in a relationship, you want that relationship to be open and honest. To do so, you need to be able to tell each other anything. Being closed-minded towards your partner signals to them that you’re not trustworthy or safe to talk to about personal things.

Being closed-minded is certainly one of the leading communication mistakes, especially in relationships, because it doesn’t foster closeness or bonding. When you’re closed off to your partner’s beliefs and ideas, you may make them feel like you don’t accept them for who they are. They won’t feel like they can tell you anything and may even fear rejection when they open up!

The best fix for being closed-minded is to first address that you tend to be closed-minded towards others. You can practice non-judgment and active listening in conversation instead of wanting to shut other people down for having ideas or beliefs you don’t agree with. Try to practice empathy for other people to better understand where they’re coming from. You can even ask questions to show that you’re interested in learning more about what they’re sharing. 

Interrupting others

Communication mistakes like interrupting others may be easier to fix with a little practice. Interrupting may seem obvious, but it’s extremely common. Whether you’re just excited about the conversation or you generally have the tendency to talk over others, interrupting other people in conversation is a sure way to make them feel annoyed and frustrated by you. In relationships, you spend a lot of time with your partner, and it can become a major issue for you to keep interrupting them. Think about how you would feel if you were telling a great story when all of a sudden, your partner interrupts you. You might feel annoyed and thrown off your storytelling game. This is how people feel when you interrupt as well! If interrupting people is your habit, it’s a habit to kick to the curb. 

If you want to work on interrupting less in conversation, practice active listening and being patient. Save your questions and comments until they finish speaking. If you need more structured practice, you can also attend support groups in which everyone gets the chance to speak freely without interruption. This will teach you not to interrupt and be more patient until it’s your turn to talk. Your partner will appreciate being able to speak freely without interruption.

Lack of mutual understanding

A lack of mutual understanding can happen between two people but is especially detrimental in relationships. A misunderstanding will inevitably happen when you and your partner are not on the same page. Poor communication in relationships happens when both people fail to check-in.

Many people end up in conflict because they simply didn’t ask for clarification. As an example, your partner says, “I’m going to the gym later.” Even though they haven’t been going to the gym as much lately, you respond by saying, “Okay, be safe.” What your partner didn’t tell you was that they would try out a new gym across town and would be home a lot later than usual. What you didn’t ask them were details about their somewhat unusual trip to the gym or what time they were planning on coming home. When your partner finally does get home, you end up in conflict about this misunderstanding. In reality, it was on both of you to check in about the important details.

To avoid conflict due to a lack of mutual understanding, you must check in with your partner. Make sure you’re asking all of the necessary questions to prevent an argument or misunderstanding later. You can also provide your partner with more details about a situation even if they didn’t ask. This will also prevent a lapse in communication and allow you to understand where the other person is coming from.

Using “you vs. me” language

Using “you vs. me” language in conversation is a quick way to get the other person defensive. It is essentially treating your partner as if you’re on opposing sides. When it comes to you and your partner, the two of you are supposed to be on the same team. Poor communication in relationships often looks like using “you vs. me” language, and it’s an easy mistake to make. When you pit yourself against your partner, you create a divide between you and make it more difficult to solve the issue at hand. You may not even be dealing with conflict, but “you vs. me” language can also slip into normal conversation.

Let’s say that you often walk the dog in the morning while your partner tends to sleep in. You’re both having a tender moment while cuddling with the dog, and you say something to your dog along the lines of, “Don’t you love me more because I walk you in the mornings? Wag your tail if you love me more!” It seems innocent to say something like that, but you’ve unknowingly just used “you vs. me” language. This is a more mild example of “you vs. me” language but demonstrates how this communication style can create conflict. If the conflict is already present, blaming the other person for the issues is another example of “you vs. me language.”

To avoid making this communication mistake, you must always remember that you and your partner are teammates. Avoid blaming your partner for the issues in your relationship. Also, avoid using language that pits you and your partner against each other. Try to be mindful of how your words might create a divide between you. Avoid comparing yourself or your actions to that of your partner.

Having negative body language

Making body language mistakes can happen easily and without too much thought. Our body language is sometimes automatic, so having negative body language is a common communication error. When you roll your eyes at your partner, you don’t care about what your partner has to say. Responding to your partner with negative body language can speak volumes. Your body language might be dismissive, aggressive, bored, irritated, inattentive, defensive, or a combination of these. Examples of negative body language include facing away from your partner, looking around the room, looking distracted or not making eye contact, crossing your arms, or rolling your eyes.

Negative body language can have a huge impact on the health and strength of your relationship. Your body language will indicate if you are engaged, and your partner will pick up on it. Your partner will be less likely to want to share with you if they are met with eye-rolling or lack eye contact. If it seems that you’re not listening to your partner, they won’t want to talk to you about what’s on their mind! 

Fixing the issue of having negative body language is as simple as learning how to convey positivity in your body language instead of negativity. Try facing your partner and making eye contact with them when they’re talking. Don’t be distracted by what’s going on around you. Don’t be scrolling through your phone while your partner is trying to engage you in conversation. Avoid crossing your arms; keep your body language open and inviting. As for facial expressions, don’t look bored or disinterested, and do not roll your eyes at your partner for any reason.

Improving Communication

It takes a huge level of self-awareness to improve your communication mistakes. The first step (and it’s a big one!) is to admit your faults and weaknesses when communicating. Identifying which bad communication behaviors you’ve been engaging in takes a hefty amount of introspection. To have more effective communication in relationships, it’s important to be open to working on the parts of yourself that need a little bit of fine-tuning. Whether you’re prone to interrupting or you have the tendency to stonewall, there’s no shame in acknowledging that you have improvements to make in your communication style. 

Learn from communication mistakes

After admitting your faults, the next step is to change the way you communicate. A great way to strengthen your relationship is to ask your partner for help with improving your communication. You will need to be able to handle some criticism, but having your partner point out when you’re making communication mistakes can be a big help. While your partner can help you, it will also be important to learn how to self-correct. For example, you can say something like, “I noticed I didn’t ask you many questions when you were talking about having dinner with your friends. Can we go back to that?” Even when you make communication mistakes, correcting those mistakes shows that you are self-aware and committed to making that change.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it may take some practice to break your bad communication mistakes. Allow yourself some patience as well as kindness on your journey towards self-improvement. You can also give yourself a strong pat on the back for wanting to become a more effective communicator! With these tips, you’ll be able to tackle any communication issue you may be having with strength and confidence. Your partner and your future self will thank you for your work today!

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Sofia Bolanos

Sofia Bolanos has over seven years of experience in the mental health field and is an avid peer support counselor and volunteer. She also works closely with homeless populations in the San Francisco Bay Area and provides resources and support to vulnerable individuals within the community. Her goal is to utilize her gift of insight to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. As part of her commitment to that goal, she facilitates a monthly support group in which couples are strongly encouraged to attend. She received a B.A. in Sociology from San Francisco State University and is on track to continue her graduate studies in 2023. In addition to her passions for writing and helping others in their healing journeys, she enjoys oil painting, contemporary dance, plant care, and spending quality time with her dog.

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