Effective Workplace Communication
In a survey conducted by management consultant and author Gregory P. Smith, respondents were asked this question: "To improve your workplace environment what would you like to see your executives/supervisors/managers do?" 69% of the respondents said, "Be better at communicating."
Fortunately, effective communication is a skill that is relatively simple to master. Read on to learn how you easily and successfully can get your point across.
Communication is an essential part of any professional's day and even more so if you're a manager. According to a recent Human Resources study, managers spend up to 80% of their time communicating in one way or another. Your ability to present ideas to your superiors, relate with colleagues, negotiate with vendors, win over clients or pacify irate customers all these depend on how effectively you communicate. More importantly, being a manager who can communicate effectively means you can give employees clearer directions and more meaningful feedback, enabling them to better meet your expectations. A manager's communication skills impact productivity, the quality of the output, and even employee retention. And yet, many seem to take this fundamental aspect of their role for granted.
- Weigh Your Words
Miscommunication is a major challenge in many workplaces. To avoid miscommunication, think before you speak, and make your point as simply and concisely as possible. This way, the listener will understand and remember your message. You can also avoid miscommunication by following these pointers:
- Avoid Ambiguity and Vagueness
Ambiguousness can leave people confused because there's more than one interpretation for what you said. For example, when providing directions, instead of saying "Don't do it this way," detail how you want something done. Vagueness is also a problem because it usually leaves people with insufficient information. Instead of saying, "Let's meet in my office a little later," make things easier for everybody by giving a specific time.
- Know Who, Where and How
Always be aware of the environment in which you are communicating and with whom you are communicating. Workplace cultures vary some can be more informal or very direct, while others call for protocol and diplomacy. Theres also a thin line that divides how you communicate with your peers, superiors and subordinates. Oftentimes, you can speak more openly with your colleagues and maybe dispense with most of the formalities. With superiors, however, you might want to be more precise and deferential but not ingratiating. Communicating with your subordinates depends on your management style and maybe even the personality of each employee. Keep in mind that while many employees are open and objective when it comes to suggestions and criticism, there are sensitive types who may feel hurt and defensive. In any case, its to everyones benefit if you take the time to word any criticism as constructively as possible.
- Talk their Talk
Workplace diversity should also be taken into consideration, says managerial communication program professor Kathleen Galvin. "People from different ethnic backgrounds have different communication styles." Instructions that are misinterpreted, a comment that is misconstrued, or even directions that are misheard can all lead to major headaches. The key is to understand and figure how to relate to different people who have different ways of expressing themselves.
- Speak With, Don't Talk At
Effective communication is an interactive process, and the best way to be a good communicator is to be a good listener. "Think of your conversation as a tennis match, with each person taking turns serving and receiving, or speaking and listening," says author and Goalminds, Inc. CEO, Jo Condrill. "When its your turn to listen, do just that and give the other party your undivided attention." The point of a conversation is to engage other people and find out what they think or want. Ask open-ended questions and avoid those that can lead to dead-end yes or no answers. In return, be an active listener. Dont be afraid to ask for clarification if you arent sure you got what they just said, and if necessary, paraphrase what you just heard and ask them to confirm that you understood correctly. When you actively listen, it shows that you value what the other person has to say, whether that person is an employee, a colleague, a customer or a prospective client.
- Set the Tone
No matter what words you choose when saying something, its often your tone that communicates how you really feel. Put yourself in the place of the person you are communicating with. If you are in a hurry, do you come across as concise and not abrupt? Do you talk too fast when you are nervous or feeling uncertain? As a manager, your employees probably pay close attention to how you feel and often interpret your tone with them as an expression of what you think of them. If you speak to them in a curt manner, it may undermine their confidence in their performance, or even in you. No matter how impatient or upset you are, keep your voice composed and neutral. If a conversation begins to turn into an argument, try restoring equanimity by deliberately lowering the volume of your voice more often than not, those you are speaking with will follow suit.
- Be Ready to Agree to Disagree
Have you ever been in a conversation that degenerated into prolonged debate? If yes, then you know that the outcome is rarely productive. If anything, participants often leave feeling frustrated and even angry. But disagreements are a fact of life. Its unrealistic to think that everyone will always share the same opinion. However, it is possible to understand anothers point of view without agreeing with it. And it is equally possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Remember that, particularly in the workplace setting, disagreements are a difference in opinion, not personal rejection. Everyone has a right to an opinion, so respect that. From there, you can either work on a compromise, take your case to an objective third party, or simply agree to disagree.
- Actions Are Indeed Louder
Studies show that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Make sure you make amicable eye contact (look, dont glare), and maintain good (but not stiff) posture. Be conscious of what your hands are doing. Wringing your hands can signify nervousness, and clenching them conveys impatience or anger. Avoid looking at your watch or crossing your arms these actions convey impatience, disagreement and an unwillingness to be open to discussion. Many experts recommend mirroring, or to match the body language of the person you are speaking with. Doing this expresses your openness, support and agreement. Examples of this are crossing your legs when they do, nodding, placing an elbow on the table just be careful not to be too obvious or they might think you are making fun of them. "But make sure your message and your body language match," cautions Condrill. "If there is any discrepancy, people are more likely to believe what your body language is saying than your words."
Simply put, the key to communicating effectively is to know what you wish to say, and stay aware of who you are speaking with and where you are speaking. Communication and success go hand in hand. The better you are at communicating your ideas, the better the results you get.