How can you improve your workplace communication skills?
How can you improve your workplace communication skills?
by Anna Kucirkova 28/06/2019
Within the workplace, it’s absolutely critical to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. No matter what business you are in, the ability to speak with precision is essential.
If you work in marketing, your ability to communicate clearly with clients and coworkers ensures you deliver the desired product. In a retail store, communication with employees and customers ensures a good customer experience. In construction, good communication will ensure worker safety and project completion to specifications. In medicine, communication about your treatment is literally a life or death situation.
Clearly, good communication in all fields is a vital element of good business and proper customer service; a necessity for a career in communications.
Of course, this raises the question: How can you improve your workplace communication skills?
We’re going to break down the what, why, and how of effective workplace communication so that you achieve the best results.
Know your communication types
Before you can improve your communication skills, you first need to know all the different things that make up workplace communication. There are probably numerous methods of communicating that you use constantly without giving them a second thought.
In our technological age, the most common form of workplace communication is email. While phone calls are still used on a frequent basis, email and other digital forms of communication (such as texts, tweets, and private messaging) are the primary methods of communication among business professionals.
Other types of digital communication that have revolutionized business are web-based meetings, video conferencing, shared online workspaces, crowd sourcing, podcasting, blogging, and community websites within and between companies.
It’s important to note that type of interchange between you and a coworker, no matter what the medium, is workplace communication and should be treated appropriately.
The critical importance of communication
If you think you can be effective in the workplace without having solid communication skills, you’re sorely mistaken.
Effective communication is a vital tool for any business owner or employee. Your success at clearly articulating your message can be the difference between success and failure in any business opportunity.
You should be able to clearly explain company policies to customers and clients and answer their questions about your products or services. It is crucial to communicate effectively in negotiations to ensure you achieve your goals.
You need to know know which mediums appeal to which types of people. Some people grasp messages more easily when pictures and sounds are involved. Using presentations like PowerPoint to communicate with your clients or team will give them the opportunity to refer back to it if they aren’t clear about certain things. Others prefer face to face meetings or chats over Slack.
Effective communication can help create a good working relationship between supervisors and staff, which can in turn improve morale and efficiency.
In fact, research has shown that effective communication leads to an improvement in overall company performance. It has also been discovered that employees who were graded as highest in production had received the most effective communication from their superiors.
Growing in communication skills
In order to have successful communication, everyone must have the basic communication skills necessary to understand others and to be understood. This may sound obvious, but consider how many people aren’t taught basic communication skills and how it hurts them in the workplace.
You can often be distracted by your own thoughts, feelings and opinions and so tend to hear what you want to hear or what you expect to hear. You’re often thinking about your next move or what you should say next, or you’re trying to second guess where the other party might be leading you.
To listen effectively you need to suspend these internal thoughts and give your full attention to the speaker. Only then can you really hear what they’re saying.
Active listening also means paying attention to the speaker – both to verbal and non-verbal cues. For example, if you see them look down or appear uncomfortable in some way while saying “That’s all I can tell you at the moment,” you might deduce that they are withholding information. This type of active listening alerts you to the opportunity for a well-constructed open or probing question, to gather the missing information. If you’re not listening actively, it can be easy to miss signs like these.
Do not let your attention wander. Important pieces of information can be missed if you are not alert and engaged. This can lead to misunderstandings later on, or possibly embarrassing situations where you appear to have forgotten something you have been told.
One way to help you concentrate during a business conversation is to ask the speaker questions. Not only will this help you to guide the conversation where you want it to go and at the pace you want, it can also ensure your mind is focused on the subject at hand.
Confirm what you have heard and ensure your understanding of the conversation. An easy way to do this is to clarify, paraphrase or summarize. Examples of summary question include
- So what you’re saying is…?
- So what you need from me is…?
- So in summary what we’ve agreed is…?
Be confident and clear
When you speak, be confident and serious to ensure that you will not be taken for granted. When listeners notice any uncertainty and lack of seriousness when you’re communicating with them, they could treat the information with disdain or disregard.
Use confident body language as well. Your body language will pass your message faster and better. Use positive body language when communicating with colleagues. Stand/sit up straight, use smiles, handshakes, and eye contact.
Also, use words that can be easily understood. When ambiguous words are used, you can be misunderstood and/or waste precious time having to explain yourself. No one is impressed with someone who tries too hard to be impressive. Be yourself and use appropriate vocabulary.
Your inflection is just as important as the words themselves. One word can mean a different thing when said in a different tone of voice. Make sure you use the appropriate tone of voice to communicate your message to your team so that you won’t be misunderstood. Misunderstandings in the workplace can and will negatively affect the work relationships that are critical to business success.
The amazing benefits of effective communication
There are numerous benefits of effective communication in the workplace. Excellent workplace communication can increase employee job satisfaction. Why? Because Employees feel empowered if they are able to have upward communication.
This type of communication is when information flows upward in an organization and usually consists of feedback. If bosses or managers are able to listen to employees and respond, this leads to an increase in employee job satisfaction.
In addition, employees are also happy if there is intense downward communication, which is information flowing down from superiors or managers to direct reports. Workplace communication can also have a positive effect on absenteeism and turnover rates. When employees are treated with respect, given opportunities to provide feedback, and feel like their ideas are being listened to, they are much more likely to stay with the company.
On the other hand, consider what happens when communication is lacking. Misunderstandings result in sloppy work, hurt feelings, missed deadlines, and employees being let go. A company that doesn’t prize communication is setting itself up for significant problems.
Avoid these traps
If you’re going to be an outstanding, effective communicator, you also need to be aware of the things that can stand in the way. There are multiple barriers to good communication in the workplace, and many times we’re not aware of these issues.
First, heavy use of jargon, over-complicated, unfamiliar, and/or technical terms can lead to confusion, especially when dealing with clients. While these may be something an employee could understand, a client may not.
Second, there are various emotional barriers and taboos that some people may find difficult to discuss, and some topics may be completely ‘off-limits’ or taboo. Taboo or difficult topics may include, but are not limited to, politics, religion, disabilities (mental and physical), sexuality and sex, racism and any opinion that may be seen as unpopular. Be very, very careful when treading in these areas.
Third, showing a lack of interest, being distracted, or ignoring the receiver is bound to not only insult the speaker, but it can decimate any goodwill you may have with that person.
Fourth, beware of missing clues that would normally show up when speaking to someone face-to-face. Not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture, and general body language can make communication less effective. Phone calls, text messages and other communication methods that rely on technology are often less effective than face-to-face communication. If you’re communicating digitally, keep this in mind.
Finally, there can be significant language differences and cultural differences. These include difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents, understanding the norms of social interaction in different cultures, and the way emotions are expressed. For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings. Pay close attention to this as you interact with coworkers.
Be a great communicator
Will these suggestions turn you into the next great orator, inspiring millions through your powerful speeches? Probably not. But they can help you become a much more effective workplace communicator, which can pay huge dividends for your career.
You can’t afford to ignore your communication skills. The presence or absence of them will directly affect those around you, including your clients, boss, and coworkers. The good news is, you can grow in being a better communicator.
Here’s to clarity, persuasiveness and to becoming a great communicator.
Anna Kucirkova works as a copywriter for over 4 years. She speaks 3 languages, loves traveling and has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and South East Asia, she still wants to explore the rest of the world.
Check out her latest article about Etiquette
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