You might pride yourself on being one of those people who can talk to absolutely anyone, but how well do you actually communicate?
Chances are you're not coming across they way you think you are, says Ben E. Benjamin, author of "Conversation Transformation."
Here are four conversation traps you could be stumbling into -- and how to climb back out:
Trap 1: You ask pointed questions: "Don't you think going to France on our vacation is a great idea?" It seems like a harmless inquiry, but what you're doing is making sure you hear the answer you want.
Fix: Make sure that when you ask a question, you're genuinely looking for an answer -- not just aiming to have your opinion validated, Benjamin says. Tweak your question to something more open-ended: "Where would you like to go on vacation?"
Trap 2: You give the totally wrong response. When a friend comes to you complaining about an issue she's having, you say, "That's not so bad," or try to fix the problem. Big mistake. "When we tell someone, 'It's not that bad,' we're dismissing their concerns, making them feel even worse," Benjamin says. And proposing a solution? Also wrong, since the complaint is usually only the tip of the iceberg, he says.
Fix: Validate her concern by saying, "I understand how you would feel that way." Then ask questions to help her solve her problem, such as asking what she wants to change and how she might go about it.
Trap 3: You embrace your inner psychic. That doesn't work. Assuming you know someone else's thoughts is one of the most deadly communication mistakes you can make, Benjamin says.
Fix: Hear her out. Resist the urge to make assumptions and just listen.
Trap 4: Swapping mad for sad. You're in a fight with your significant other about the usual loaded subjects -- money, in-laws, why he can't unload the dishwasher without prompting -- but are you really angry? New research in the Journal of Family Psychology shows that you might be masking your true emotions -- such as sadness about the state of your marriage -- with anger.
Fix: Before the fight escalates, take a breath and ask yourself if you're really mad or just sad. Being honest can lead to a much more productive conversation.