The current circumstances highlight the importance of communication in the workplace. With limited to no face-to-face interaction and with most correspondence done by chat or email, mentoring sessions, daily conversations, and meetings have to be adapted to the times.
It thus needs to be said that improving your communication skills is part of the job. Find out the best ways to do so here.
Why Is Communication Important in the Workplace?
Companies and employers look for candidates with good communication skills, a leading set of soft skills that are indispensable in any industry, job, position, setting.
Communication is the foundation of any professional relationships among co-workers, bosses, clients, and the likes, regardless of personal differences and diverse personalities.
It’s easier to collaborate, cooperate, and work together with others and achieve the desired results if everyone is able to express oneself effectively, be it conveying information, giving suggestions, and providing feedback.
In order to improve your communication skills in the workplace, review the different kinds of communication and their key points:
- Verbal communication carries messages as spoken out loud. In this type of communication, pitch, volume, pauses, and content takes centre stage.
- Non-verbal communication picks up on what you don’t explicitly say but your body language reveals. Gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements are non-verbal cues.
- Written communication centres on words printed or written in emails, instant messages, memos, reports, and other documents. To avoid misunderstandings, choice of words and language is critical here.
- Visual communication includes drawings, images, videos, infographics, and presentations, Like written communication that lacks non-verbal cues, design, messaging, and text placements must not fail.
1. Keep It Positive
Complaints against new work policies, grievances over existing ones, disagreements happen in any workplace. It’s in conflicts and tense situations that being able to communicate positively is most helpful.
For example, if you are tasked to deliver controversial news to employees, you need to be honest and prudent with your words. If possible, frame it in such a way that the more positive aspects of the news are highlighted.
Prepare for the difficult conversation by gathering all the details on how the decision was made and anticipating the team’s reaction to it. Listen to concerns, take note of them, and be clear about whether these have an impact on changing the decision or not.
If you are at the receiving end of the not-so-great news, listen first. Try to calm down a bit before speaking up when the situation gets too heated.
It may be better to write an email instead and suggest a one-on-one talk to discuss its content. Build your case with words that best raise your concerns without having to raise your voice.
2. Show Respect
Workplace relationships are built on mutual respect. When you are working in an atmosphere where professionalism and decency reign, you can focus more on your work and worry less about petty office politics.
The words you use and non-verbal cues are primary indicators of respectful behaviour. Say please or equivalent words for requests, and thank them afterwards. If you are in the wrong, acknowledge the mistake and apologise.
This respect is also shown in how you value the time and effort of others. It’s as simple as coming to a meeting on time and prepared to discuss the agenda. Make the meeting productive by taking notes and asking questions.
Being respectful of your coworkers also manifests in your deeds. Do your part in collaborative projects as you’ve promised and be willing to help others. Make helpful suggestions, give constructive criticism, and be open to other people’s opinions as well.
3. Listen Actively
Active listening is a skill. It’s about being attentive and focused on what the other person is saying to get information, expand understanding, and so on.
You’ll know if you have been actively listening if you show these signs:
- Make eye contact
- Nod, smile, or even laugh
- Summarise or paraphrase the key points
- Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer
- Adopt an “I’m listening” posture: leaning forward, arms relaxed, phone out of sight
Listening actively requires holding back on your beliefs and hearing out the other party in full first. Interrupting disrupts, if not preempts the flow of the discussion. But intervention is needed when the discussion is going nowhere.
Being an active listener also makes it easier to be an active participant in solving problems because you are able to contribute well-formed opinions based on perspectives and information from others. And supposing you have let go of your biases, collaboration produces more promising results.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions is a sign of interest and engagement. It shows that you want to be heard and involved in conversations that matter at work.
The timing of the questions has to be there, of course. Wait for the time allotted for questions and clarifications. If you really have to interrupt in the middle of the discussion, subtly catch the attention of the speaker and get them to acknowledge you.
Then, there’s the substance of your questions. If you want to dig deeper and add more insights to the conversation, like creating an opening for a related topic, formulate questions with why, how, or what and why.
You can be really good at asking the right questions. Plan your questions based on what you’ve heard and to avoid parroting the same information. Ask questions based on the kind of information you want to draw out. Also practise, especially if you are the type who listens more than talks.
5. Proactively Seek Feedback
Asking for feedback is part of professional growth and advancement, with input supposed to guide your ascent to higher or bigger roles or just to do better in your job.
Because periodic work-related reviews can be far and between, it’s often best to deliberately solicit regular status updates from your manager:
- Email them to schedule a short talk focused on your recent task results, or if there’s a scheduled meeting, ask for feedback to be included in the agenda.
- Specify the areas you want to improve on, including communication skills, speed, accuracy, and timeliness. Inform your manager in advance so that they can prepare and give a meaningful response (it can be added work for them).
- Take note of the points you have received for goal setting and tracking.
By asking for feedback regularly, you strengthen your ability to face negative criticism and deal with it constructively. It may just be more than accepting poor ratings but to engage your boss in a conversation that produces actionable steps for improvement.
There’s no perfect work environment where everyone works well right away and clashes of opinions or personalities are non-existent. That’s why you and others need to communicate and overcome barriers that prevent you from having meaningful exchanges of information and ideas.
Being able to communicate effectively across all channels is needed more than ever, and these tips are meant to help you hone or put your communication skills at work.