11 simple steps to improve communication at work
A successful company is built on good communication. With strong communication throughout the workplace, all members of the team know what they are working towards and how their work contributes to the company’s overall goal. Not only that, good communication also builds trust, creates relationships and establishes a more productive environment.
If those reasons alone aren’t compelling enough to make you want to implement strategies to improve communication in the workplace, strong communication also helps teams to face difficult conversations and overcome challenges.
On the other hand, poor communication leads to confusion, frustration and a lack of trust. If communication becomes really bad, it can also lead to staff turnover, absenteeism and lower levels of customer satisfaction, whilst also hindering company growth, development and revenue.
Thankfully, you can improve communication in the workplace without large investments of time or money. It just calls for strategies to be implemented and for leaders to commit to prioritising communication as a business goal.
5 Ways to Improve Communication Skills
There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.
People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.
Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore, the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.
2. Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.
He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.
Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.
4. Over Communicate
What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:
Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.
Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.
5. Body Language
The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.
When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.
In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills?
Just like pretty much everything else in life, communication skills can also improve with practice. So if you’re worried about yours not being up to par, just follow the tips we’ve listed and keep in mind that practice makes perfect.
#1. Learn to Listen
Listening is literally half of the communication process – just like it takes two to tango, it takes a clear speaker and an active listener for effective communication to happen.
However, listening takes way more patience than talking, while actually listening instead of pretending to listen is something very few people do. This puts a strain on communication.
Well, just like you’d choose a friend who’s a good listener over someone who just wants to put in their two cents, you should practice active listening as much as possible to improve your communication.
#2. Notice Nonverbal Cues
It’s not an easy task, of course – people take classes to learn how to read body language. But you can begin improving by paying attention to your own nonverbal cues when you speak, and to those of the people around you.
These observations can help you pinpoint the nonverbal cues that have a positive and negative effect on communication and can be a good starting point for you to improve your nonverbal communication skills.
#3. Practice Oral Communication
Having used words our entire lives, we rarely stop to wonder whether our verbal communication is effective. Instead, we tend to blame the listener for not understanding or just assume that we have different opinions.
- Think before you speak. Especially in the workplace, but also during your job interview, it’s important to know what you want to say in advance. We don’t mean following a script, but having a clear idea can significantly help to get your point across. And yes – it’s totally OK to tell your interviewer, “hmm, give me a minute to think about this.”
- Be concise. Time is the most valuable asset and in many cases, we waste it unnecessarily. A good verbal communicator is someone who can be brief, yet specific. This means giving just the right amount of information for the other person to understand, without taking too much of their time.
- Consider other perspectives. The better you can play devil’s advocate, the more convincing your arguments can get. Being able to take other perspectives into account can do wonders for your verbal communication, especially when you try to persuade or convince someone.
Tips to Make Your Communication Skills Stand Out
- Match your communication skills to the job. Check the job description with an eye out for any communication skills highlighted in the requirements. Out of the many communication sub-skills, only list the ones that are relevant to the job you’re applying for on your resume. Personalize the cover letter accordingly too.
- Use the job interview to your advantage. The thing with most communication skills is, they’re more convincing when you show instead of just tell. So, listing “confidence,” “friendliness” or “oral communication” on your resume won’t yield as many results as being confident and reasonably friendly during the interview, or proving that your oral communication is on-point. So, make sure to prepare in advance and bring your A-game to your job interview.
- Keep it up after you’re hired. Getting the job doesn’t mean you stop working on your communication skills. On the contrary, the workplace is where they will really be put to the test – by colleagues, supervisors, and clients/customers alike. So keep practicing your communication skills at work and don’t miss a chance to showcase them by being an active listener at meetings, respectful towards your colleagues, and open to accepting and providing feedback!
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