You Want it When? How to Improve Your Workplace Communication

by Betty Lochner on April 13, 2012

Ever wonder why you can’t get through to someone at work?  Or how you can communicate better with your boss and colleagues?  Are you new at a new job and want to be really successful?

The truth is that having good rapport at work takes some practice.  It all starts with thinking through what you do well and then what you can improve on.  Start with these tips and you will be well on your way.

1. Be Respectful.

 Use the other person’s name. Say “please” and “thank you.” If you are communicating by email, reread it before sending your message to make sure that it won’t be misinterpreted. Pay attention and please don’t multitask!  Put your phone down, move away from the computer and focus on the person.

2. Talk Less; Listen More.

The best communicators are also the best listeners. Make a conscious effort to truly hear what the other person is saying.  Stay in the moment – don’t interrupt or think about how you will respond until you have truly heard what they are saying.

3. Check for Understanding.

Paraphrase to make sure you are clear about what has been said and let the speaker know that you care about what he or she is communicating. Say something like “What I hear you saying is . . .” or “Did you mean….” to make sure you understand.

4. Be Clear and Succinct.

Make sure that the information you need to convey—whether it is spoken or written—is clear and succinctly communicated. Use language that is specific and unambiguous. Avoid acronyms and academic “big” words.  Plain talk is always best.

5. Pay Attention to Body Language.  

Pay attention to  non-verbal communication cues including tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and eye contact. Make sure their body language matches what they are saying. If it doesn’t, ask why. Say something like “you say you are okay with this, but you look angry….”  And, make sure that you are using good, positive body language.  Relax, stay open and smile!

6. Be Aware of Who You are Talking To.

Communicating with your boss, co-worker, or customer may require a slightly different communication style. With your boss, pick the right time, and ask for what you need and what you expect they can reasonably deliver. For a co-worker, be direct, transparent, and open-minded. And if a customer calls with a problem, listen carefully, apologize even if it wasn’t your fault, and offer a solution.

7. Use the right medium.

More and more of our workplace communication is done via email, voice mail and text messaging. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these, depending on the message and the audience.

Texting can be especially effective when a quick question or answer is required without further explanation or repeated follow up, e.g., “What time is the budget meeting?” But don’t text when it cannot effectively communicate your message. It is not effective when you need to share difficult, complex, or sensitive information.  For that, go with face-to-face!

8. Improve Meeting Productivity. 

Do your part. Ask for, or provide an agenda, hold to the appointed start and end time, and have the right people in attendance. Use the time efficiently and talk about next steps.

9. Use the power of appreciation. 

Tell people what you appreciate about them.  Send them a note of thanks when they do something for you.  Acknowledge hard work and be quick to share credit for anything that someone else had even a small part in.  Tell their boss they did a good job.  Remember birthdays, bring food to share, look people in the eye and say “thank you.”

10. Be Positive.

Regardless of the conversation, keep it positive. Even the harshest feedback can and should be delivered in a positive, supportive, team-centric manner. Always stay focused on behavior or performance and not the person’s character.

Now, take an honest look at your own communication skills and then choose at least one of the above tips to improve upon. The work you put into improving your communication skills will pay dividends for you both at work and at home.



Cornerstone Coaching & TrainingBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit:

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