Communication — it’s pretty much the foundation for everything. Getting what you want at the office (and we all know you deserve that raise you’re asking for), resolving drama with your BFF, taking your romantic relationship to the next level: Strong communication habits are key in every aspect of your life. And while many of us make it a priority to learn how to play up our strengths, there are subtleties to dealing with other people that are easy to ignore. Enter Stacey Hanke, a career, branding, and communication coach who’s mentored C-suite executives and shared her insights as a keynote speaker all over the country. When it comes to communication strategies, Hanke’s witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly firsthand — and some of the consistent shortcomings she’s observed aren’t the big-picture weaknesses you might expect.

A woman laughs with coworkers

“The majority of leaders I work with have distracting communication habits that sabotage their message and minimize their influence,” Hanke shares in her new book Influence Redefined. “They’re not aware of how they communicate.” So, what do we do about it? Hanke has provided us with a list of the most common distracting communication habits that she’s observed over the past decade and a half, in hopes that it will make each of us more aware of the less-than-stellar nuances of our exchanges with other people. The first step is admitting the problem, right? Here are seven behaviors that might be distracting your boss, bae, or bestie from the very important message you’re trying to communicate in any given situation. Getting these habits in check isn’t rocket science, so if you’re guilty of any of them, start paying closer attention to your own actions, and you can nip them in the bud!

Two friends catch up over coffee

1. Lack of Eye Contact: Even if you’re referring to notes or a printed presentation, make a point to look at your listener as much as possible. And please, please don’t check your phone mid-convo. Your Instagram feed can definitely wait until you’re finished.

2. Using Filler Words: Words like “uh,” “um,” “so,” “and,” “you know,” “okay,” “right,” “basically,” “actually,” and “well,” Hanke explains, “cause us to speak in paragraphs and to ramble.” Work on cutting to the chase and eliminating the fillers from your conversations.

3. Fidgeting: If you have a serious message to share, you’d better leave the fidget spinner at home. You should also resist the urge to play with pens, papers, or your split ends (anything but that!).

A woman leads a discussion at a meeting

4. Using Distracting Volume or Tone: Hanke cites the following as examples of distractions: “speaking too soft or too loud, your voice trailing off at the end of a sentence because you’re trying to say too much on one breath of air, [and] uptalk — ending your sentences as if you’re asking a question.” Practice modulating your volume and tone ahead of time if you know it’s something you struggle with.

5. Overgesturing: Sometimes, it really is better to keep your hands to yourself. If your hands never stop moving — and your gestures don’t actually support what you’re trying to say — they’re probably going to distract from your words.

6. Sitting With a Closed Posture: When you cross your arms, clasp your hands in front of your body, lean, slouch, or keep your hands on your hips or in your pockets, you’re not exactly broadcasting an interest in open communication.

7. Constantly Moving: Even if you’re nervous, avoid pacing or shifting back and forth. It’s not a good — and by “good,” we mean “confident” — look.

What other behaviors do you find distracting when you’re trying to communicate? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)