Not long ago, I was talking to a good friend and colleague of mine. She and I share a particular pet peeve for the incorrect use of words. Our conversation was focused on a behavioral debrief that I had just completed for a client. At some point in the conversation, I said the following,

“Her behavioral adaption is causing her significant stress in the position.”

Did you catch it? It’s staring you right in the face. I committed one of my own communication pet peeves and my colleague called me on it.

“You lost me at adaption. That’s not a word and I didn’t hear one thing you said after that.” What? Wait.

“She’s right,” I thought to myself.

What I intended to say was “her behavioral adaptation is causing her significant stress in the position.” What I said was “her behavioral adaption is causing her significant stress in the position.”

It’s hard to believe that two little letters in the form of “a” and “t” could cause somebody to completely disconnect from the message.

“Don’t let it get in the way of hearing what they’re saying. Concentrate. Don’t get distracted. Focus.”

This is what rolls through my head when something someone is doing gets in the way of me hearing what they’re trying to say. Why? Because each of us, all of us, have some pet peeve(s) that cause us to disconnect or disengage from a conversation. Maybe you can relate. When this happens, I’m no longer an active participant, I’m an ineffective listener.

This isn’t about me judging someone’s communication style. It’s about sharing the awareness and self-discipline I find myself needing when put in one of those “it’s not what you’re saying, it’s what you’re doing” moments.

My pet peeves aren’t your problem, they’re mine.

Communication is about so much more than words. I own my reaction and distraction connected with the actions of others. I know this and that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to deal with. If I’m being truthful, sometimes I’m a really sporadic listener. While I don’t like that tidbit of awareness, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Frequently, I wonder why these pet peeves have such a negative impact on our ability to listen or communicate effectively. However, pet peeves are a two way street. I have mine and you have yours. Equally unique and equally irritating, these are nuances that do more to alienate than affiliate unless we identify them, understand them, and deal with them.

Found in many forms, identifying pet peeves is pretty easy. Just consider the physical or emotional reaction you have to something that someone is doing when they engage you in a conversation. If a pet peeve is present, I find myself getting tense or impatient. I can physically feel a change in my intent and approach. Sometimes I just get irritated internally. How about you?

Unless I tell you what they are, you don’t know my pet peeves. Once I’ve identified them, it’s my responsibility to understand them and deal with them. Imparting that on you means that I expect you to stop doing what irritates me simply because it irritates me. Very one sided.

On the flip side of that coin, if someone knows the things, beyond words, that get in the way of effective communication with you or me and they deliberately choose to do them, that says a lot about the value they place on the effectiveness of their communication, interaction and relationship with us.

So… here are my top three communication pet peeves.

  1. Mumbling – Enunciate your words so I can understand what the heck you saying.
  2. Focusing on something or someone else while talking to me – This doesn’t demonstrate good multi-tasking ability.
  3. Using words incorrectly – Your choice of words (COW) is critically important.

No one’s immune from falling victim to another person’s pet peeve(s); even when one of them is your own personal pet peeve.

In reality, it’s not really that tough to understand how something that a person finds especially annoying would cause them to disconnect or disengage from your message and communication. If you’d like to resolve your pet peeves, Inc published an excellent article on doing so a few years ago.


What are your communication pet peeves that cause you to disengage or disconnect? I’d love to hear about them. What story best illustrates your communication pet peeve(s) getting in the way of you being an effective listener.

Until Next Time,

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