It might seem easy, but communicating effectively actually takes quite a bit of finesse. Choosing the right words, listening with our minds instead of just our ears, and getting our message across are skills that we all need to work on.
Here are some tips that will help you improve your workplace communication:
1. Listen Attentively : Being an effective communicator means listening as well as talking. Sounds easy, but listening actually takes some practice. Most of us are terrible listeners. Instead of truly listening to what the person is saying, we interrupt, prepare our response, or think we already know what the speaker is going to say next. It's impossible to understand what someone needs or wants if we don't give them our undivided attention.
2. Pay attention to body language: Body language plays a key role in communication. A major problem you can run into at work is miscommunication through body language. It can tell you just as much as what a person says, if not more. Observe how they act when they talk. Is your co-worker saying he can meet a deadline, but wringing his hands while he says it? He might be afraid to tell you it will be hard to make the due date.
3. Consider communication preference : Not everyone likes to communicate the same way. Email works for some, but others would rather pick up the phone and talk, text, or even use social media or instant messaging to convey something. Respect the person you're trying to contact and use the method he seems to prefer. If you've called a client several times and always get his voicemail, but he's always quick to respond to email, switch to email instead.
4. Tailor Conversation : 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.
5. Consider your tone : The problem with email and social media is that it can be difficult to determine the tone. You may mean something as a joke, but if it comes off pushy or angry, you could cause an unintended reaction from the recipient. Make sure your language is clear, and if you are angry, take a few minutes to cool down before you type. Better yet, meet in person so nothing is misconstrued.
6. Don't be too casual : Getting along with your work colleagues can help you do your job better, but don't take it too far in your communication on the job. Keep the cursing for after hours, and make sure your emails, meetings, and phone calls are professional. Being too casual on the job may make others feel uncomfortable.
7. Check your grammar : Spell check is your best friend on the job. Always proofread anything you type—be it an email, Tweet, or letter. If you're not great at catching errors, ask someone else to proof it for you.
8. Restate what you hear (Paraphrasing) : 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. It gives both parties a chance to clarify if there is any confusion, and by repeating it, you'll remember.
9. Build Rapport and Trust : People let their guards down when you talk about their lives outside of work. Ask about a co-worker's kid's soccer tournament. Find ways to interact on a personal level without going too far or getting personal. You'll go a long way toward building rapport and trust.
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.