Effective communication in the workplace can mean the difference between a company that succeeds and one that doesn’t. Communication plays a vital role in employee satisfaction, work culture, and company progress. However, for many of us, good communication skills don’t come naturally. They have to be practiced and improved continuously.
This article explains how you can communicate better at work, and why it’s important.
communicate clearly in all circumstances
Clear communication is something a lot of people struggle with. Whether they’re prone to mumbling or repetition or they simply communicate differently to the person they’re speaking to, it’s easy for misunderstandings to occur. Communication that fails to be clear can cause a whole host of problems in the workplace (and in one’s personal life), from conflict to costly misunderstandings. Clear communication is important because it helps primarily to mitigate conflict.
There are many types of conflict that can occur in the workplace. According to Harvard Law School, “three types of conflict are common in organisations: task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict.” These are typically caused by poor communication that has caused misunderstandings, or the feeling of being misunderstood, and that an individual’s emotional needs are not being met or are being purposefully disregarded. Clear communication helps mitigate these conflicts and ensure understanding and care company-wide.
How to Communicate Clearly
Actively engage in the conversation: this means listening to what the other person is saying, giving eye contact, and being present.
Hold one-to-one meetings: miscommunication can easily happen when you are communicating with a whole group of people at once. Holding one-to-one meetings is a great way to get your message across and ensure the person has understood.
Ask for clarification: once you have communicated what you wanted to say, be sure to ask for clarification. Has the person understood what you’ve said? Do they have any questions? Is there anything they would like further clarification on?
prioritise active listening
When we think of effective communication, we typically think of talking. However, 45% of good communication relies on active listening. It can be hard to listen when you’re stressed, tired, anxious, or always focusing on what you’re going to say next. However, taking the time to really listen to what a person is saying will drastically improve your communication skills and help individuals feel more comfortable, happy, and supported in the workplace.
Active listening is all about showing you hear what a person is saying. So much of what we communicate is achieved through our body language, voice intonations, and body language. By actively listening, you can pick up on these small details and find out how a person is really feeling and understand what they’re trying to communicate on a far more personal level.
How to Actively Listen
- Give the speaker your undivided attention: as humans, we are so easily distracted. However, distraction is a conversation killer. So, it’s important to give the speaker your undivided attention. You could try repeating back what they’ve said but in the form of a question. Avoid checking your phone or staring out the window. Showing that you’re distracted can have a negative effect on the speaker, making them feel uncared for, uncomfortable, and embarrassed.
- Avoid interrupting: during a conversation, it can be tempting to interrupt the speaker with your thoughts or advice. However, this is not always helpful – particularly if the individual struggles to communicate due to an anxiety disorder. Avoiding interrupting and simply letting the individual speak freely can have a positive effect on their emotional state, encouraging them to feel more confident and comfortable around you.
- Engage and show interest: conversations in the workplace can often be one-sided. Just think of meetings, for example; one person speaks and everyone else listens. However, effective communication is a two-way street. Both parties should have a chance to talk and share their thoughts. When the other person is speaking, actively listening means you engage with what’s being said and show interest by asking questions, smiling, and nodding your head.
Alter your communication style
Not everyone communicates in the same way – nor do they respond to the same kind of communication. If you want to learn how to communicate effectively in the workplace, it’s important to realise that you may need to alter your communication style depending on who you are talking to.
According to HubSpot, “Growing up, you most likely didn’t talk to your parents the same way you talked to your friends. If you casually slipped in some of your teen lingo during a conversation, it wouldn’t register with them and they wouldn’t be able to understand what you were trying to express.
In the working world, a variation of the teen-parent communication dynamic still exists. All your colleagues have different personalities, and different personalities require different communication styles.” Learning how to alter your communication style to suit the person or people you are talking to is an important skill to master. It will help ensure you communicate effectively at all times and in all situations.
How to Alter Your Communication Style
- Set up virtual meetings: not everyone in your office wants to meet face-to-face. In fact, some find the mere thought of an in-person meeting completely anxiety-evoking. It’s important to be aware of this fact and alter your communication style as is required. Learning who likes what style of communication best does take time and will require some trial and error. However, virtual meetings are a great place to start as they provide a low-pressure environment in which to talk and share ideas.
- Establish a routine: some people don’t like unexpected meetings. They like to feel prepared. So, a routine works best for them. You might find that establishing routine meetings throughout the week that your employees can prepare for is the best way to communicate effectively and set everyone’s minds at ease.
- Don’t be cryptic: we’ve all received those emails or phone calls from the boss that say, ‘I’d like to speak with you in my office. Be there in five minutes’. Messages like these can strike fear into the most self-assured employees, causing heightened stress and anxiety in the workplace. To avoid this, don’t be cryptic in your messages. Always be clear about why you want to speak with someone and maybe take the time to outline the main points the meeting will cover. This will help put everyone at ease and ensure a more productive conversation.
As you can see, communicating better at work is essential both for employee happiness and for ensuring the progress of your organisation. We hope the tips in this article will help you improve your communication skills for the betterment of yourself and your company.
Author: Sophie Bishop – Freelance Medical Journalist