Everyone wants to be heard. Sometimes it can be hard to get people's attention, or get above the noise. There's nothing worse than having a conversation with people and feeling like you are the only person involved.

If you often feel like you are talking to yourself in conversations and meetings, it’s possible you are the problem. Granted, few people are great listeners, but you might not be giving them the reason to listen. Or worse, you might be shutting them down in some manner.

Here are a number of communication offenses that make people close their ears and brains in conversation. They are easy to recognize and remedy. Today is a great day to start.

1. You're whining.

I'm not really sure why human beings are capable of whining. It doesn’t really serve a useful purpose for the whiner. On the bright side, your whining loudly tells others that you are a pain to work with and they should beware. You might choose a more stealth approach to getting your point across.

2. You're thinking or speaking only of yourself.

Communication is an interaction between multiple people and you are violating the rules by being narcissistic and self-absorbed. Make your communication empathetic so you can engage the others emotionally. Save your self-interest for your Facebook page.

3. You won't shut up.

If you go on and on in a redundant manner, not only will your audience be bored to death, but they can't engage in your story or anecdote. At some point they will just tune out. Break up your droning and cut the long-winded speeches.

4. You interrupt.

When people are speaking, cutting them off mid-thought will not only distract them, it will likely offend them. Then, instead of listening to your new thought, they will be busy thinking about what an insensitive jerk you are. Even if you are a fast thinker, you may not actually know what others will say. Take notes with your own thoughts and give others a chance to finish.

5. You begin with, "Actually, you're wrong."

You may as well just put someone in a soundproof booth. When you belittle someone's thoughts or ideas, you kick-start their inner voice. Their brain will now try to figure out how you are wrong and why you are such a mean person. Give their idea consideration and let your position stand on it's own merits.

6. You cry wolf.

When you call the cavalry too many times, no one believes a word you're saying. All the drama you've created is like a repellent keeping people away. Worse, you've lost credibility for when there is actually an important message you need to get across.

7. You don't care about what you're saying.

People can tell when you are dispassionate about your ideas and thoughts. If you don't feel excited and energetic about what you're communicating, what's the point in saying it? Save your talking for the times when you have conviction.

8. You don't know what you're saying.

Knowledge is easily accessible these days. People can readily tell when you are communicating beyond your expertise, and they are not afraid to call you out on it. Most times they will just shut you off in their head. Show discretion. Be the expert when you can and learn from others when you can't.

9. You wander.

Where was I? Oh yes, when you are trying to get a point across, people are following you. If you lead them off track, they will likely stay there. Slow down. Think through what you want to say. Then say it succinctly and with purpose instead of bouncing around.

10. What you are saying is insignificant.

Some people talk and talk about nothing in particular just to hear themselves talk. That's fine — if you are only interested in talking to yourself. Useless chatter will drive away people who value their time. Ask yourself if what you have to say is truly important. As Gandhi asked, "Does it improve upon the silence?" If not, leave it unsaid.

11. What you are saying is irrelevant.

If you enjoy irritating people, just interject random thoughts into important conversations. People are constantly evaluating your intelligence by what comes out of your mouth. Don’t give them a reason to lower their opinion. Contribute to the conversation in a productive manner that moves it forward.

12. You start with, "I'm sorry . . ."

Unless you actually offended someone, beginning your statements with an apology is like apologizing for your very existence. I have been told that women in business do this far more than men. Be strong and confident with your communication. When your words and presence add value, you don't have to apologize. (Canadians of course are forgiven for this due to cultural habit.)

13. You don't hold up your end of the bargain.

People listen to people they trust. If you tell them you will do something and don’t do it, they have no reason to listen to you ever again. Walk your talk. People who say one thing and do another are either hypocrites or liars, and either way they forfeit their right to be heard.

14. You never take action on what you hear.

Most people want to connect with people worthy of their time. Do your part. People who contribute little of value generally won’t earn the time and attention of those who contribute much.

15. You're always negative.

Many find rampant pessimism to be demotivating and painful. You don’t have to be a cheerful optimist all the time, but if nothing positive comes from your lips, people won’t be interested in much you have to say. Find the bright spot and share it, even if you have to accompany the downside.

16. What you say is trite.

There is nothing wrong with a cliche here or there, but if your entire conversation is derivative drivel then people will just move on and find something fresh. Find some new stories and sayings to make your point. People always listen to those who can keep their attention with surprise and excitement.

17. You never listen to anyone else.

Effective communication is a reciprocal process. If you aren't an active listener with the people around you, then they will feel little obligation or desire to listen to you. Make your active listening to the other person your first priority. You'll be surprised then how often you are invited to share your opinion with an attentive audience.

Published on: Aug 21, 2015