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Career Advice

You're Sabotaging Your Success: Unknown Communication Mistakes & How to Fix Them

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

July 17, 2017

You may be sabotaging your influence through your verbal and nonverbal communication without even knowing it.  

Why is it so common for leaders to overestimate their level of influence? First, there is a phenomenon called “Illusory Superiority” or the “Above-average Effect.” Most leaders judge themselves better than average in any particular metric, including personality traits, job performance and work-related skills. We tend to overestimate our positive qualities and underestimate our negative qualities.

The second reason that leaders believe they’re more influential than they really are is because our definition of influence is flawed. We have a misperception of what influence is and an outdated, inadequate understanding of what it means to be influential.  

The common definition of influence is the ability to motivate people to action. This definition doesn’t work in today’s business environment because we live in a new world of work called “noise.” Think about how many messages you have already received today. We have noise from our own dialogue and the multitude of messages we receive 24 hours a day, every day. The people you’re trying to influence aren’t paying attention to you if you’re sabotaging your influence through your communication. If you don’t have their attention, you can’t influence them. Therefore, it’s now more critical than ever to understand what influence is and what it is not.


In today’s competitive world, influence is:

  • “Monday to Monday® – consistent actions all the time, in all situations, that are congruent with your purpose and priorities;
  • Moving people to action long after the interaction is over;
  • Creating a standout experience that separates you from the crowd;
  • Built on verbal and nonverbal communication;
  • Measured not by how you feel but by the results you consistently achieve;
  • A skill that can be developed by anyone through feedback, practice and accountability.

Working from an incomplete definition of what it means to be influential Monday to Monday® is the first way you may be sabotaging your influence.

The second reason goes back to the Above-average Effect. Many leaders believe that if they feel they’re a good communicator, then it must be true. They believe that if they feel influential, then others perceive them this way. This problem is compounded by the fact that few people are willing to give leaders honest feedback about their influence, or lack thereof. As a result, they take their level of influence for granted.

It is a natural human tendency to base our opinion of ourselves on how we feel when we communicate rather than on the facts of how we actually look and sound. Our thinking is, I feel good; therefore, I am good. More often than not, what we feel inside doesn’t translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing. We may believe that we are better communicators than others think we are. Or, the opposite may be true. Others may see us as better communicators than we think we are.

To enhance your influence, you need to evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings. You need to get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your listeners and readers. This leads us to the third reason of how you may be sabotaging your influence.  

When was the last time you recorded yourself speaking on video or audio? If it wasn’t within the last three months, there is a strong possibility that you don’t know the facts about your communication. There is also a strong possibility that you’re sabotaging your influence through your communication without even knowing it.

The best way to get factual data about your communication is to watch yourself on video or listen to yourself on audio. Video acts like a mirror, enabling you to see exactly what others see and to hear exactly what others hear when you communicate. What you see and hear is who you truly are when you communicate.  

Video recording yourself is the only way to reveal the truth of what your listeners see and hear rather than what you believe to be true. As painful as it might be to watch and hear yourself, is it any worse than spending the rest of your career clueless about what others are thinking or saying behind your back? As much as you might not want to do it, videoing yourself is one of the greatest investments you can make in your life, both professionally and personally.

TODAY make a commitment to increase your influence and avoid sabotaging your influence.  

1. Redefine Influence:

  • Take a closer look to make sure your definition of influence is in line with what influence is rather than what it is not. Is your nonverbal and verbal communication consistent?

2. Recording:

  • This week, use your smartphone, tablet or computer to audio or video record yourself at least five times: during a meeting, phone call or presentation, or during face-to-face or virtual conversations.
  • Take a closer look to make sure how your define influence is in line with

3. Playback:

  • Immediately after the event or interaction, watch the video or listen to the audio playback. Immediacy is crucial so that you can more easily compare how you felt as opposed to what your listeners actually saw and heard.
  • Watch and listen from your listeners’ viewpoint. Trust what you see and hear. Believe what the video shows.
  • Give yourself feedback:

  Is there a difference between how you felt during the recording and how you look?

  What perception would you have of yourself based on what you see and hear?

  Would you be influenced by your communication?

  What do you want to change?

4. Action:

  • Document the specific actions you will take in order to improve your communication and grow your influence.
  • Hold yourself accountable to practice the behaviors and skills that need improvement in your daily interactions.

Influence is the highest form of competitive advantage for both individuals and organizations. When all else is equal between you and the competition, the business goes to the one with more influence. Therefore, influence is more crucial than ever in achieving success.   

Stacey Hanke is author of Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday®.  She also co-authored Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A To Z to Influence Others to Take Action.  Hanke is founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. She has trained and presented to thousands, helping business leaders get rid of bad body language habits and to choose words wisely – from the financial industry to the health care industry to government and everyone in-between.

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