Communication is the very core of human life; it is what makes us social beings. From the moment we wake up till we go to bed we are constantly communicating. Since communication is a very broad term and one write-up is not enough to cover all its aspect so in this post I will share 21 tips on how to improve your communication at work. Of course some of these tips can be applied to general life as well.
An effective communication strategy is vital for both organizational and personal growth. It is the base for establishing strong employer-employee relationships, rapport among team-mates, clients and third parties.
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How to Improve your Communication at Work
Be an active Listener: Active listening means giving your undivided attention to the speaker. But most of us are bad listeners, sometime intentionally or unintentionally we interrupt people when they speak, or we are busy tapping our mobile phones when someone is speaking. Take note of these tips:
- To practice active listening, try to remain silent when someone is speaking and concentrate on what the other person is trying to convey. Needless interruptions only hamper a productive conversation.
- If during a conversation you frequently check your mobiles or your eyes keep drifting back to your laptop, it shows you are not fully invested in the other person. Therefore, keep distractions at bay.
- Try to fill in the conversation with emphatic observations like “Okay”, “Yes, I get that”, “I understand.” This will assure the other person of your sincerity.
- Another way to ensure you were actually listening is to repeat what you heard, not the entire conversation, maybe just the gist of it. Like – “So what you are saying is that we outsource these operational processes to a new vendor.” This will ensure the other person that you were as involved in the entire conversation.
- When you listen attentively your employee or co-worker is more likely to trust you and open up. You can have a fruitful discussion and come up with pragmatic solutions to any issue.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
– James Humes
Books to Improve Communication skills:
If you want to improve your communication at work and in general life two books that I personally recommend are:
- How to Talk to Anyone at Work: 72 Little Tricks for Big Success Communicating on the Job
- Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond
How to Talk to Anyone at Work: Written by Leil Lowndes, this book is full of practical tips with real-life examples on how to deal with issues and people at work. If you are introvert and suck at making small talk or you want to brush up your communication skills or you are just starting with your job there is something for everyone. You can just read the book in parts and it would still make sense.
Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond: This book is targeted at honing your leadership skills. It is pretty straightforward in its approach. It focus on strategies to build stronger relationships by focusing what the listener is thinking, which means you as the speaker have to put yourself into the listener’s shoes.
The book is divided into 5 sections (1) Your Content; (2) Your Oral Communication Skills; (3) Your Written Communication Skills; (4) Your Interactions; and (5) Your Leadership. Each of these sections provide practical tips on how to improve your communication strategy.
Body Language is Vital
In your office it is very essential that you maintain a positive approach in your body language. Avoid having
- Pursed lips, folded arms, frowned eyebrows or hand on the hips are signs of dominance and aggression. During a conversation avoid any such gestures because these will make you seem unapproachable.
- Similarly, shaking a leg(s), tapping a finger(s) and feet during a discussion shows your disinterest.
- Small things like a nod, maintaining the eye contact while speaking or listening will encourage the other person to speak or listen to you with more interest.
Admit to Being Nervous
When you speak, and this is especially important if you have a fear of public speaking, keep your body at ease don’t be uptight or stiffen your muscles. Take three deep breaths and begin your speech with, “Wow! I am nervous!” This does two things, automatically diffuses the tension in your body. Secondly, it makes your audience sympathetic about your situation; you may even find some encouraging nods and words from the audience.
Speak in a precise simple way rather than beating around the bush. It will you save time and get the message out in a clear manner. Don’t be vague or over-communicate because it will only confuse those who are listening and increase the chances of misinformation.
It is always a good idea to write down your points before speaking as you will know exactly what you are trying to say.
For eg: In your team you are in-charge of a new project. You as a leader must communicate clearly with your team members as to how you plan to go about the task. Assign specific roles to each team member to avoid confusion. Team projects carry the risk of miscommunication so you should ensure there is a constant flow of correct information among your team members.
This is one of the most effective ways through which you can improve your communication skills. Practice speaking in front of a mirror on any subject matter just for 5 minutes every day. Start by speaking slowly. Try to give correct pauses in your sentences. This simple exercise will show you where you are lacking in your communication skills. It is also a great way to speak more articulately.
Reaching out to your co-workers on a personal level is the best way to gain their trust and form strong relationships. Consider these tips to create an office-friendly environment:
- Greet your colleagues in the morning. A simple smile, ‘good morning’ and ‘hello’ signal a positive start to the day.
- Take out sometime in the day to interact with your co-workers. Encourage one on one interaction. Try to learn if they are facing any issues at work.
- Say please and thank you more often. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish by being nice to people. Note the difference in these two sentences “I want this report to be completed by tomorrow.” and “This report is really important. Can you please complete is by tomorrow.”
- Hold at least one monthly open floor discussions for free flow of ideas and feedback. Ask and provide constructive feedback.
- Keep an open mind about things, even if you do not agree with a certain idea. Someone may have a different approach than you that may work better, give your employees a chance to prove themselves.
- Motivate, encourage and praise your team members, employees whenever there is an opportunity.
- Personally reach out to your employees who are new to your organisation and those who are socially awkward to express their opinions in open discussions.
- Most of official communication is done through email but verbal interaction always carries a more personal touch so try to wish your colleagues personally on their important dates like birthdays and work anniversaries.
Set a Time-frame for Discussions
This can be really helpful for those who struggle with their attention span. When you don’t have much time to spare when you are either the speaker or listener, inform the party at the other end that you are pressed for time.
Consider these sentences – First, when you are the listener, “I am in a hurry, can you please wind this up within 5 minutes.” When you are the speaker, “I just need 5 minutes to discuss this.”
This will immediately bring the focus on the discussion at hand and will save you precious time on the small talk.
Schedule official meetings at a convenient time which does not disturb the workflow, like during morning hours when your employees or team-members are yet to get on with their day. Keep a time-frame within which you want to wrap up a discussion.
If you are in a managerial position it is easy to fall into the trap of authority, wherein you become an insufferable control freak whom team-members detest. Now here I don’t mean you scream from the roof-tops to establish your authority, you might be a very sweet passive aggressive manager used to getting your way. In either of the scenarios, you organization’s growth is at stake.
Therefore, it is your job to delegate tasks to your team-mates. If you display your confidence in them, it makes your life easier. An organisation with poor channels of communication has most number of disgruntled employees. Here are three benefits of having a strong communication strategy.
- Motivated Employees: When you have smooth channels of communication, employees are forthwith with their ideas, which necessary for innovation within an organisation. Further employees are motivated enough, resulting in employee retention. This is important for any organization that deals in project-based tasks.
- Feeling of Inclusion: When employees are given a chance to express their ideas and opinions or complaints there is a feeling of inclusion in them. It gives them confidence that management is keen to listen and that their voice matters. Therefore the communication approach in an organization should be “bottom-up” and not just “top-down”.
- Strong Team: A strong team is crucial for any organization. Efficient teams are those which have members who are discuss things and take decisions democratically. Values like co-operation, collaboration among team members comes with an effective communication strategy.
If you make the effort of keeping clear lines of communication with your management, team-mates, other employees and clients you will increase your worth in the organization as a valuable human resource. This skill is also improves your chances at excelling in interviews as well as holding bigger responsibilities within an organization.
So these are some simple ways through which you can improve your communication at work. Hope you found these tips useful. Do you have some more suggestions you would like to share I would love to hear them in the comment section below. Always happy to know your thoughts!