Communication is one of the cornerstones of workplace success. Whether you are dealing with clients, bosses, subordinates or colleagues, being able to communicate effectively is invaluable. It can enable you to accomplish your goals or objectives with minimum hustle.
Now, effective communication doesn’t occur by accident. Accomplished communicators know this. It requires understanding certain basic skills. These skills enable you to get your message across clearly, and to understand whoever you are communicating with.
The good news is that workplace communication isn’t rocket science. Anyone can master it easily. All they need to know is how to get started. Below are five tips which savvy communicators use. You can use them too to communicate more effectively at your workplace.
1. Listen Actively
The biggest challenge in workplace communication is poor listening. The challenge is that people think communication is all about talking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To be an effective communicator, you need to master how to listen actively.
Active listening isn’t merely paying attention to what someone is saying. It is letting them know that you are paying attention. For instance, if someone is speaking to you, and you are fidgeting with your mobile phone, it makes them feel ignored. However, if you look someone who is speaking to you in the eyes, it shows them that you are listening.
There are a number of ways you can use to show someone that you are listening. You can maintain eye contact, nod in agreement, use supportive phrases (e.g. “really?”, “tell me more..,”, “I understand…”) and occasionally restate what they are saying.
However, any indications of listening should be genuine. You should actually be listening. It is possible to nod your head occasionally when you aren’t following what the other person is saying. This is actually unhelpful. You need to listen so that you don’t miss out on critical details of what the person is saying.
2. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
People don’t just communicate with words. They also communicate non-verbally. In fact, in most cases, body language reveals more than the person’s actual words. A person’s gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions and even posture can reveal their true message.
Therefore, to communicate effectively, you need to pay attention to these non-verbal cues. This starts with you. When speaking, you need to ensure that your non-verbal cues reinforce your message.
A good rule of thumb for effective non-verbal communication is to be honest and direct. The reason for this is simple. You can fake your words, but it is extremely difficult to fake your body language. As such, if you don’t speak honestly about what exactly you think or feel, your body language can send a different message. Ultimately, you end up looking phony or contradictory.
When speaking to someone, you need to pay attention to their non-verbal messages as well. These will enable you to understand people better. Generally, understanding people better can enable you to communicate more effectively.
3. Be Clear and Precise
A common mistake of poor communicators is lack of clarity. This often arises from one wrong assumption. This is assuming that everyone understands at their level. To communicate clearly, you need to throw out this assumption.
The starting point of clarity is word selection. Make sure you select the simplest words which can best communicate your message. Don’t try to impress your listener with overly verbose or technical language. Your purpose as a communicator isn’t to impress anyone. It is to get your message across.
Avoid using slangs, jargons or obscure references. Not everyone understands them. Use jargons strictly in situations where you are confident that your listeners understand them. The same applies to slang and other non-conventional language.
Besides clarity, you need to be precise. Use the fewest words possible. Precision is especially important in written communication. Remember that in today’s world, people have limited attention spans. If you use lots of unnecessary words, people may lose track of your main ideas.
4. Choose The Most Effective Mode of Communication
The typical workplace is awash with modes of communication. You can call, text, email, fax, Tweet, and so on. Basically, there are lots of ways to communicate to someone. The only challenge is this: different people have different preferences. One person may prefer a phone call while another may prefer a Facebook post.
To communicate effectively, you have to understand your target’s preferences. Choose the one which your target prefers. This may require flexibility on your part – since it may not be your preferred mode. However, a good communicator chooses whatever format will best get their message across.
5. Guard Against Misinterpretations
Misinterpretation is a common source of communication problems. The message sent isn’t always the same as the message received. Sometimes it is the fault of the sender. Sometimes it is the fault of the receiver. Sometimes both the sender and receiver are partly to blame.
To communicate effectively, you need to guard against misinterpretations. The first step is to realize that they can occur. A message you send may be interpreted differently by the receiver. You can also misinterpret someone’s message.
When you are the sender, the best way to avoid misinterpretation is through clarity. When you state something in the simplest and most direct way possible, there is little room for interpretation. People only begin to read between the lines when you use obscure words or phrases.
Another way is through restating your main points – especially after a long explanation. Don’t assume that the listener was following. You can also ask them if they understood. Depending on your relationship with the listener, you can ask them to restate your main points.
When you are the receiver, the best way to avoid misinterpretation is through asking for clarification. If there is any aspect of the message which is unclear, please ask for clarification. Poor communicators think that asking for clarification makes them look dumb. What they don’t realize is that misinterpreting someone’s message and acting on the wrong interpretation makes them look doubly dumb.
Basically, you have to realize that misinterpretations sometimes occur during communication. As such, whether you are the communicator or the recipient, you need to take steps to minimize misinterpretation.
In a nutshell, these are a few ways to communicate more effectively in the workplace. The only thing you have to do is practice them consistently. Remember, effective communication is a skill. Every skill can be honed, mastered and perfected.
Therefore, commit to become a more effective communicator from this moment onwards. Begin slowly practicing the above tips. You may stutter at first. You may make mistakes. However, with time, you will become a better communicator. In the end, both you and your colleagues, subordinates, bosses or clients will benefit from your improved communication skills.