Do you know what makes good communication? How you communicate in the workplace shows your personality and values. Brian Tracy, a motivational public speaker and self-development author believes “communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
So the question is, how do you go about developing communication skills? Communication is a broad topic, and can seem overwhelming when tackled head on. Here, I hope to ease your pain and give you insight on how to develop these skills.
The do’s and don’ts of good communication
Be clear and direct.
When you try to say something or write something, make sure your language is very clear and that you deliver the information directly. This will ensure that your message is not lost in translation.
The goal is for others to understand what you are trying to communicate, and for others to know that you heard them correctly. For example, you could say “I hear what you say, it is [topic overview].” to repeat the desired message.
When you talk with somebody face to face, make sure you are looking at them in the eyes. This shows that you are engaged in the conversation and are actively participating.
When you write an email or written letter, read it yourself before you send it out. Having an email that is clear and hits all the points you need, the recipient will be more understanding of the message. They will also value that you took the time to spell it out.
When you talk with somebody on the phone, make sure you are very clear and hear her/him. Try not to multi-task, avoiding distractions that may cause you to miss information.
Tailor the conversation to the audience
Time is always limited! Before you communicate with someone, think about what what you want to say and who you are talking to. If you are speaking with a CEO, you are probably safe to use larger words and talk in numbers. However, if you are talking to an intern you may want to walk them through what you are saying slower and with more ‘entry-level’ jargon.
Start with face-to-face
When you find problems are difficult to deal with, try to communicate face to face first if possible. This will let the other person see your whole facial expression and body language. It will avoid any possible misunderstandings commonly experienced with written words.
Don’t give more attention to cell phones than people
It is very rude when you communicate with someone and are distracted by technology. This applies to when you are talking with someone face-to-face, over video chat, or even just over the phone! It will give the other person a bad impression of you, because they will think you are not pay attention or respect them. Not being engaged shows a lack of interest, which can translate as a lack of respect for the person.
Don’t overuse abbreviations
Sometimes, you may use an abbreviation in casual conversation. For example, “L.O.L.” means laugh out loud, and “E.O.D.” means end of day. However, the overuse of abbreviations can cause several misunderstandings. If you use an abbreviation that people are not familiar with, be sure to clarify its meaning.
Don’t monopolize the conversation
Don’t run the show all the time. When others join you in conversation, the communication becomes more effective. By allowing others to actively participate in the conversation, the quality of response and feedback is greater.
Don’t react or get upset
Control yourself. Try not put your emotional side on the table to a point that makes your office uncomfortable. Getting upset will not help you deal with the tough situation and think clearly. Also, you will leave an unprofessional impression.
Interrupting will show your rude response as disrespectful. Everyone needs a moment to speak and address their thoughts and opinions in the office. Don’t be the one to dominate the whole conversation.
Adjusting communication tactics
Your communication in the workplace is often a signal that reveals to the receiver what kind of person you are. Also, the way you speak with your co-workers will create a label for you. You may be seen as the chatty unfiltered confidant, or the quiet and judgemental competition.
“Most personality differences can be categorized into four fundamental personality types: analytical, intuitive, functional, and personal.” – Mark Murphy, organizational leadership and employee engagement
It is important to read others’ communication, and adjust your own accordingly. All colleagues have different personalities, and those different personalities require different communication styles. If the person you are chatting with is a very impatient person, you should express your meaning simply and clearly. The similarities between workplace communication and interviews are that in these situations you cannot be preconceived and make assumptions, which may make mistakes and others would be uncomfortable.
Communication in casual settings
Another time to consider your communication is in casual settings at the office such as lunch break. Even if it seems that talking with colleagues at lunchtime is simple, it can also turn sour quickly and affect your professional relationship. If you step on a “land mine” by mistake, it can directly affect your personal career development and your relationship with the team members. Here are some general topics that are safe to talk about and some topics to avoid.