Everyone knows that communication is important to various aspects of daily life. But what some people may not know is how crucial communication is to achieving success in the workplace. Inadequate communication skills can lead to misunderstandings between employee and employer, and also among teammates. When surveyed, the majority of employers cite “good communication skills” as key criteria potential employees must meet. And, if an employer is looking for solid communication skills during the hiring process, you can be sure these skills will remain important when performance is judged on the job. The tips we’ll discuss here will show you some ways to improve your communication skills so that you can become even more valuable to your employer, more easily procure a desired position, or experience a better relationship with current coworkers.
1. Be Aware of Your Body Language
About 50-70 percent of communication is nonverbal. Becoming aware of what you communicate when you are not actually speaking is an important step toward improving your overall communication skills. The message you convey non-verbally through body language must coincide with your verbal message or people will doubt that you are sincere. Our nonverbal behaviors can also cause us to be seen in a positive or negative light by the people we’re communicating with.
For example, the act of crossing your arms can appear to be a defensive stance leading others to believe you are mad, becoming aggressive, or are unwilling to accept what they are saying. On the other hand, maintaining “open” body posture, making eye contact and nodding your head in agreement shows that you are receptive.
2. Actively Listen
Try to focus wholeheartedly on the other person when they are communicating with you. If you appear to be listening but have actually tuned the speaker out and begun formulating what you will say in reply, then you are missing out on a lot of potentially important information. When you find your mind wandering away from the speaker, bring your focus back to them. This is an act of living in the moment. All of the best leaders throughout history are known for their listening skills. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to improve on this skill. We have one mouth and two ears for a reason: we are intended to listen twice as much as we speak.
3. Be Clear and Direct
Many a problem in the workplace stems from a simple misunderstanding. The best way to avoid these types of situations is to be clear and direct. For instance, for a job to be done right the first time, the person doing the work must have a complete understanding of what is expected. (So, if that person is YOU, and you are unsure of a task you’ve been assigned…ASK for clarification.) Being direct is always best in today’s busy workplace because there is simply no time for people to guess what it is you want or need. Directness is especially important when disagreements come up. Talking “to” the person with whom we have the disagreement will solve the problem a lot faster than talking “about” them. Just be sure to keep your communication respectful and professional; approach others the way you would want to be approached.
4. Watch Your Text
Texting and other forms of instant messaging can be incredibly helpful when used correctly. But as many organizations have found out, it can also be very detrimental when misused. While messages like “What is the meeting about?” or “Can you come by and pick up this plan?” can serve as concise, acceptable communication, it is important to remember that they do not always clearly convey our intended meaning and thus can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. When something is important, send a detailed email or, better yet, have a face-to-face conversation. And remember, humor and sarcasm are not always communicated well through text—it’s important that you consider your audience before using these devices.
5. Practice Recital
A big part of effective communication is ensuring that understanding has been achieved. One way to confirm the intent of the communication is to recite the other person’s communication back to them. This allows the communicator to correct the listener’s perception if necessary. Also, by reciting things twice, the process helps both participants log the information into memory.
Coworker 1: I need your help creating an email newsletter for our clients today.
Coworker 2: You need me to create an email newsletter for our clients? I am kind of busy today.
Coworker 1: No, I just need your help with one paragraph about the event you’re heading this weekend.
Without the recital in this case, coworker 2 is left feeling a little resentful and stressed. By digging a little deeper with one small investigative response, coworker 1’s intent is clarified and the problem is solved.
An effective communicator is a better employee, and ultimately a better boss. Everyone in the work environment can profit from improved communication skills. It can be the perfect foundation on which to help advance your career.