December 30, 2011 Leave a comment
In the spirit of year-end top ten lists, here are my top ten tips to improve communication in the workplace—for this and every year. Better communication is important because it can provide more engaged employees, higher workplace morale, and greater efficiency and productivity.
As I wrote in a previous post on how to improve listening, communication skills include reading, writing, speaking and listening. All of these skills are important in most workplaces and each of them should be considered.
My top ten tips to improve workplace communication are as follows.
1. Clear & Direct. Be certain the information you need to convey—whether it is spoken or written—is clear and directly communicated. Use language that is specific and unambiguous. Check that the receiver understands the message as you intended. Avoid acronyms when there’s a chance they will be unclear.
2. Actively Listen. Becoming an active listener means you make a conscious effort to truly hear what the other person is saying—in their words as well as their body language. Practice holding off thinking about how to respond or interrupting until you have thoroughly heard what they are saying. It should come as no surprise that the best communicators are also the best listeners.
3. Paraphrase. The goal of paraphrasing is to ensure you are clear about what has been said and let the speaker know that you care about what he or she is communicating. Both are equally important in effective communication. Use a variation on “What I hear you saying is . . .” to accomplish this.
4. Face-to-Face. Whenever you have difficult information to convey or sometihing that could result in many questions, choose to have a direct face-to-face conversation. You will also have the huge benefit of non-verbal communication cues including tone of voice, facial expressions and other body language.
5. Be Respectful. This means using the other person’s name, looking them in the eye, and nodding to aid in demonstrating you understand what they are saying. If you are communicating in writing, reread before sending your message to ensure that it could not be misinterpreted or taken as disrespectful. When on the phone, don’t multitask even if you think the person on the other end of the line does not know that you are.
6. Message & Medium. Some of us are better communicating in writing and some are better at speaking. Some of us are better reading information and some at listening to information. In most cases, it depends on the message being delivered and received. When you need to deliver a message, consider whether it should be spoken or written depending on the content as well as the preference of your receiver.
7. Tailor Conversation to Audience. Communicating with your boss, co-worker, customer or supplier may require a slightly different style. With your boss, be careful to pick the right time, and ask for what you need and what you expect they can reasonably deliver. For a co-worker, be direct, transparent, and open-minded. And if a customer or supplier calls with a problem, listen carefully, apologize if necessary even if it wasn’t your fault, and offer a solution.
8. Effective Texting. More and more of our workplace communication is done via email, voice mail and text messaging. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these, depending on the message and the audience. Texting can be especially effective when a quick question or answer is required without further explanation or repeated follow up, e.g., “What time is the budget meeting?” But don’t text when it cannot effectively communicate your message.
9. Make the Most of Meetings. Way too many of us spend time in meetings that are unproductive and often unnecessary. Demand that those calling a meeting provide an agenda, hold to the appointed start and end time, and have only the right people in attendance. Ensure that the work done in the meeting warrants the time and resources taken away from those working independently.
10. Stay Positive. Regardless of the conversation, try to keep it positive. Even the harshest feedback can and should be delivered in a positive, supportive, team-centric manner. Stay focused on behavior or performance and not character. When you are on the receiving end, avoid getting triggered by difficult messages. Keep in mind the bigger picture and the long term implications.
These ten tips for improving workplace communication can be implemented and perfected by anyone. Take an honest look at your own communication skills then choose one of the above to improve upon.
The work you put into improving your communication skills will pay dividends both at work and at home.