Whether in a personal or professional setting, communication skills are vital for carrying out tasks to the best of your ability, whether asking someone for help, giving a presentation, addressing a problem with management, etc.
And while it’s easy to think that everyone possesses good communication skills, much more goes into it. Which is why it’s a soft skill that constantly needs to be developed. From the tone of voice and facial expressions to word choice and giving people time to respond, many factors go into practicing good communication in the workplace. But how do you know which areas to work on? We outline several ways you can become a better communicator and encourage better communication with your employees and coworkers.
Clear expectations form the basis of good communication. Employees should understand their roles and responsibilities. And also, what is expected of them. These expectations should be outlined from the very beginning to minimize any ambiguity. Employers should also be clear about deadlines, performance indicators, and business goals. When everyone is aware of what they need to do, there’s less room for misunderstandings. This enhances overall communication.
You should also clarify how communication will be handled and the expectations of adhering to communication etiquette within the office. Also, each person should set communication expectations with the rest of the team. For example, if you work remotely and always take your lunch at 12:30 pm but changed that to 1:30 pm for a week, are you supposed to notify everyone on the team? Or, should you tell a supervisor, your office manager, cofounder, etc, and they are expected to relay that information?
Here are some questions to ask yourself and others to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to communication expectations.
- What issues require a phone conversation and which ones can be handled by IM or email?
- What is the expected time for a response to a question or concern?
- Which member of the team should be contacted if there is a communication gap?
- How should each team member respond to a gap in communication?
Work On Your Quick Communication
Over the past couple of years, remote/hybrid working has become the norm . As you can imagine, it has created a few problems regarding communication as it has made it much more difficult.
No longer are you able able to pop into colleagues’ offices as and when you need something from them. Now, teams need to think outside the box when communicating internally with staff members and externally with clients. This has increased focus on instant messaging platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. It has also changed email communication and how we use them to communicate.
With our electronic devices acting as a barrier, it can be easy to misconstrue information, mistake tone, or attach the wrong document, unlike face-to-face communication, where fewer mistakes can be made. To avoid these common communication errors, it has become vital to present information in a friendly tone, use emoticons where relevant, and use tools like file compressors to reduce files to make them easier to send electronically (and reduce mistakes!).
While tone, emoticons, and language can be taught over time, using tools can be a little trickier. This is especially true if you’re not the most tech-savvy person in the office. Fortunately, you can use online tools to help you compress, convert, merge, sign, and edit any PDF you might be sent by colleagues/clients. Learn how to compress a PDF efficiently and how their tools can help you communicate quicker and better.
Make A Conscious Effort To Listen
How often have you been listening to someone but haven’t absorbed anything they’ve said? At some point, we’ve all been guilty of this and have often been too polite to ask them to repeat themselves. Instead, we sit there, nod, and hope for the best. We usually take listening for granted since it’s something we do daily. However, it’s a hugely underestimated part of communicating with others, so we must consciously improve it.
To communicate effectively with someone, we need to hear what they’re saying and digest it to understand better what they need and how best to respond. We should listen with our ears and watch them as they communicate since body language is essential for picking up on how someone truly feels about a subject.
For instance, if a co-worker approaches you during your lunch break and asks you to cover their weekend shift because their close relatives’ birthday falls on that day. If their tone is curt and their body language matches this low energy, you will be less likely to sacrifice your weekend for their benefit. Even if it is for a good reason.
On the other hand, if their body language is soft, even a bit anxious, and their tone matches, they’ll look more genuine. As a result, you’ll be more inclined to help them. Proactive listening will help you become a better communicator. Co-workers will appreciate someone who listens to them the first time instead of repeatedly asking them to repeat something.
Give Yourself (And Others) Time To Respond
When we’re at work, we’re often pressed for time. So, sometimes when we hear that little notification bell ping on Slack or Microsoft Teams, it can leave us feeling eager to get the conversation over with before it has even begun. However, it’s easy to tell over online and offline communication when someone is rushing a conversation. No matter how discreet you think you’re being!
Plus, it’s not a very nice feeling for the person you’re having a conversation with to feel. Therefore, when improving your communication skills, you must give yourself and others time to respond. Even when you feel pressured to end the conversation quickly, ensure that you’re going through each message as thoroughly. This will help ensure that you haven’t missed anything. That way, when you’re ready to write your response, you can do so thoughtfully.
After all, nothing is more annoying than having to repeat yourself several times when talking to someone. Or, perhaps worse, waiting ages for a response! So, ensure you’re not being a keyboard warrior and give yourself and your recipient those much-needed minutes to respond. On the other hand, if you are exceptionally busy, there’s no harm in putting a status on Slack. That will let others know that replies might take a little longer than usual. Ultimately, saving them the time of waiting for you to respond.
One of the downsides of communicating with others is that it’s very one-sided. Sure, you might think you’re a good communicator, but since you haven’t physically seen yourself communicating, it can be challenging to determine which parts of communicating you’re good at and which ones you’re bad at.
This is where recording software will help. Using your voice recording feature on your smartphone or your laptop’s webcam, you can film yourself giving a speech and play it back to see how you look while communicating. When you replay the footage, you can assess which parts need improvement and which you have nailed.
On the other hand, you could ask a family member or a close friend to listen to you and give some pointers at the end of your speech (especially if it’s regarding a sensitive topic!). However, you might want to take this advice with a pinch of salt as your friends/family might not always be one-hundred percent honest with you for fear of hurting your feelings.
Create a Feedback Mechanism
Feedback, both positive and constructive, is crucial for effective communication. Creating a feedback mechanism means that you’re finding ways to get everyone’s input into how well or how badly everyone is communicating as a team.
Do do this, set clear parameters for delivering feedback. This means defining when and how feedback will be given. It’s crucial to ensure that feedback is specific, actionable, and related to performance or behavior. Broad or vague feedback often leads to confusion and can deter the effectiveness of the process. Additionally, the feedback should be balanced, combining positive aspects along with areas of improvement to avoid making it feel like a personal attack.
Implementing regular feedback sessions can further strengthen the mechanism. It also facilitates the practice of giving and receiving feedback, making it a standard part of the workplace communication culture.
It’s also important to encourage a two-way feedback process. Employees should feel comfortable giving upward feedback to their managers or supervisors about the quality of communication in the workplace. This can provide leaders with valuable insights into team dynamics, challenges, and areas they themselves may need to improve upon.